By Barb McKay
The number of layoff notices expected to be handed out to high school teachers within the Bluewater District School Board (BWDSB) has been reduced by 50. Last month, the board projected that 92 layoff notices would be issued to secondary teachers, prompting teachers and union representatives to stage a rally in front of Huron-Bruce MPP and Education Minister Lisa Thompson’s Kincardine constituency office. Last Wednesday, Director of Education Alana Murray told The Independent that BWDSB had been able to use its Attrition Protection Allocation from the province to reduce the number of layoff notices from 92 to 42. Murray said as part of its regular process, BWDSB calculates enrollment for the coming school year annually and issues notices of potential layoffs to teachers accordingly. As teachers who have not yet requested leaves of absence for the coming school year submit their requests, some teachers who receive layoff notices will be recalled. Any secondary teacher layoffs this year will not be due to increased class sizes. As part of the 2019 provincial budget, the government announced earlier this year that the average class size for grades 9 to 12 would increase from 22 students to 28. Murray said the increase will be phased in over four years and the Attrition Protection Allocation will be distributed annually through that process to prevent teacher layoffs that would otherwise result. “We were very fortunate that the attrition funding we received allowed us to call back 50 teachers and we hope the funding will get us through the next three years,” she said. What is unknown at this point is how the changes to class sizes will affect high school programming, particularly as teachers with specific qualifications retire and cannot be replaced. BWDSB trustees are working with schools in their jurisdictions to understand the potential impacts. “It’s a process we are going through over four years and we won’t know the full implications (yet),” Murray said.