Parents appeal to WRDSB to keep some integrated support programs
Some Waterloo region parents are appealing to their school trustees to keep a program they say makes a world of difference for their children's emotional and educational well-being.
Parents say they've been notified that the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) intends to cancel some Integrated Support Programs (ISP).
The programs provide smaller class sizes and added support for students facing challenges like autism, ADHD, sensory processing issues, and anxiety.
"In a regular classroom, our kids hated school," said parent Lisa Cook. "They had no friends, they were labeled as behavioural or bad kids, and some have self-harmed and experienced bullying. This is not inclusion."
Cook said her son Brandon is in Grade 6 and in the special needs program. She said a regular classroom is not inclusive for her child.
Parents made the case to trustees at a Monday night meeting and told the board what they believe is at stake if their children return to traditional classrooms.
"Being placed in a normal classroom, even with multiple supports in place, has and will lead to them spending more time outside the classroom and feeling excluded, not included," said parent Jason Blamire. "By being in smaller class sizes with kid who have similar challenges they get a sense of community and feel they are not alone in their struggles."
Blamire told CTV his son suffers with ADHD, OCD, general anxiety and Tourette ’s syndrome.
“When parents recently received a call from their child’s school, notifying them the program, which offers a two-on-one ratio of adult to child, would no longer exist come the fall – it came as a complete shock,” Blamire said.
The speakers at the meeting said forcing children back to traditional classrooms would negatively impact other students trying to learn.
Trustee Cindy Watson said she never knew the program was ending.
“I was concerned about the fact that they weren't consulted. I am concerned for each and every one of these students, who have already proven that they are able to flourish in that program,” said Watson.
Currently ISP is offered at three WRDSB schools: Queensmount Public School in Kitchener, Westvale Public School, Waterloo and Woodland Park Public School in Cambridge.
The school board said the decision to dissolve ISP was based on dwindling registration numbers over the past few years.
“That is something that we are going to need to reflect on our practices and ensure that we are listening to parent voices going forward. I am really sorry that they feel that way through these circumstances and it is something that I believe we can improve on and will improve on going forward,” said WRDSB Associate Director Scott Miller.
Each child's transition to the general classroom will be individual and teaching assistance will be available, according to the school board.
Trustees asked for staff to look into the decision and report back on the reasoning behind it, along with whether there is room for reconsideration.
Many parents are still hoping the decision will be reversed.