TIMMINS -- Five-year-old Seth has a rare genetic condition called Coffin-Siris Syndrome which causes developmental delays and physical abnormalities.

His mother, Kelly Keen, said Seth has been bullied in school but that his senior kindergarten teacher at Pope Frances Elementary in Timmins gives him plenty of hands-on attention.

But with Tuesday’s strike action involving the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) raising further concerns over increased class sizes, Keen fears Seth may end up suffering.

“I just don’t want him to fall behind in anything because he’s already behind in Kindergarten,” Keen told CTV News in an interview. “Kids with a learning intellectual disability, are they just going to be pushed aside? Teachers, with a group of 28 (students), teaching Grades 1 and 2 ... that’s split time.”

‘Some kids ... slip between the gaps’

On the picket line, members of OECTA said they feel frustrated over the lack of movement in negotiations with the Ontario education ministry.

Lynn Quevillion, a teacher at O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School and the school’s union rep, feels of all the issues the union is fighting for, decreasing class sizes is essential to giving students an individualized education.

“Some (students) come to school hungry, some come to school needing more than just to learn, they need that affection too,” said Quevillion. “The more kids you have, some do tend to slip between the gaps.”

Looking back to her school days and her first years as a teacher, Quevillion notes that the quality of education today has improved but that steps need to be taken to ensure it lasts.

“To have that hands-on (learning), you need to have the space,” she said. “If you have 30 students, compared to 20 students, well that takes up the space and that limits the teaching as well.”

‘Picking a fight with teachers’

Also showing support in Timmins was local member of provincial parliament Gilles Bisson.He said the province appears to be picking a fight with teachers, which is baffling to him.

“The government’s trying to say this is all about wages, it’s not about wages,” Bisson said. “It’s about making sure that our children, when they go to school, have the required number of teachers needed and that they’re in classes that make sense for them to do their learning.“

Calling for special needs training

For Kelly Keen, she said she will have to make up for any shortcomings from the education system at home and by relying on organizations like North Eastern Ontario Family and Children Services (NEOFACS) and the Porcupine Health Unit.

But without qualified staff and proper attention in the classroom, she said Seth could have difficulty adjusting.

“To have to learn to read, when he’s non-verbal, to learn to write,” Keen said, “how long is it going to take him to do that without any help or anything in place for children who need help in that area?”

Classes at the English catholic schools will resume on Wednesday as English public schools prepare for a one-day strike on Friday.