In the 2014-15 school year, School District 71 had to cut $2.2 million due to declining enrolment and under-funding from the provincial government. Trustees are now trying to figure out how to cut another $2.2 million from next year’s budget – an impossible task to do without directly affecting services to our most vulnerable students.
This means that if your child has learning challenges and receives help from a learning support teacher, there will be days when she will not get help because LSTs and other specialist teachers may not be replaced on the first day they are off sick.
If your child is supported by an educational assistant because of a documented learning disability, there will be days when he will not be supported because many EAs are not replaced on the first day they are away for budget reasons.
Office administrative assistants and library clerks are now re-deployed to be lunch time supervisors which means that there is no coverage in the office and your child may not be able to access the library at lunch or during the library clerk’s lunch break.
Custodians are often not replaced when they are off sick so your child may have to sit at a sticky desk with crumbs left over from yesterday’s lunch because the remaining one custodian just doesn’t have the time to get to the entire school.
If your child has a suspected learning difficulty, you can expect a wait of two to three years for a psycho-educational assessment, if they are assessed at all. Some schools, due to a limited number of educational psychologists are slated for only a few assessments a year.
To receive additional funding for support from the Ministry of Education, your child needs to have at least a psycho-educational assessment to be designated into a specific category. But even a designation does not guarantee extra funding.
There are over 100 students diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum in the Comox Valley. Currently, there is one autism specialist teacher.
Your child with a severe stutter or speech/language disability which is impacting her social and academic success will see a speech and language pathologist about once a week for about half an hour. This is only if your child has a level of severity and reaches the top of the priority list. Many children are never seen.
There are just not enough teaching specialists or EAs to help the students who do need the extra help, and the teacher’s time must divided between all his students; more often than not there just isn’t enough time because 80 per cent of a teacher’s time is taken up by 20 per cent of the students who need the additional support.
Teachers are given the time and resources to run 100 metres and are asked to run a marathon.
You will read much rhetoric from all education stakeholder including teachers, support workers, the provincial government and the local school board of trustees on the woes of the economy and the underfunded system. As a parent, you will live with these realities every day.
If you are wealthy enough, you can send your child away to a private school. If you are a concerned citizen, you will lobby the government to set their priorities on our children. They are the future of our society and deserve nothing less.
Every single parent in the Comox Valley needs to make an appointment with MLA Don McRae to express their concern to him.
Nick Moore is the president of the Comox District Teachers’ Association