Editorial: Looking further than face value

The Upper Canada District School Board is overhauling the education programming that it provides through its TR Leger School of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education school system. As reported by The Leader, the board is moving under-utilized resources from that school, and putting those into its mainstream secondary schools to support students in need. At the same time, it is updating its programming for adult students (20 years and older) with newer online-based programming, and early evening online support.

At face value, these changes all sound like good things for the school and many of its students. TR Leger lacks direct access to physical programming like trade shops, and its resources (teachers and staff) are under-used. The statistics for students age 19 and younger attaining credits shows that something needs updating because what has been in use at the school for the past 13-plus years has plateaued. But there are concerns.

Even before the board formally released its programming plans for the school, The Leader was contacted by current and former staff concerned about the direction the UCDSB is taking with TR Leger. Those concerns include the move to online programming that exclude some who have literacy/numeracy issues that online would least benefit: not leaving a space for students under 20 years old where the traditional school model does not work for them.

A letter to the board and trustees from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation local bargaining unit president Adrienne McEwen underlined a lack of consultation between TR Leger employees and the board in developing the new plan along with incompatible statistics used to justify the changes at the school. McEwen also cited in her letter several places where the board’s new plan violates the Collective Bargaining agreement between the UCDSB and union. Employment issues aside, some of the concerns raised by the union, and by those who contacted the paper, are extremely important and valid.

Moving to more online-based programming for adults may exclude those with technological access, or learning difficulties. Youth who need an option that is not offered at traditional schools may have to go through additional steps to access a program that is available because those resources have been moved.

The programs offered by TR Leger and the successes from that school have been well-documented on the pages of this paper and others. For 45 years, the school has helped students – regardless of age or circumstance – get through the school system in a way that is not traditional, but is successful. There are thousands of success stories of people who have completed their education at this school, fulfilling the legacy of Rosaire Leger, who founded this school in 1978. Not everyone learns the same way, and at the same pace. Not everyone has the same circumstances in life. But no matter what – if willing – they have a place to learn at TR Leger. The fear with the changes announced by the UCDSB is that if poorly implemented, those who are at the most risk of being left behind or falling behind, will do just that.

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