Rally for the schools April 14 at Queen’s Park
NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong shows her true colours at a rally to save Amethyst Demonstration School in London on March 30.
Parents, students, staff and supporters will rally on the lawn of the legislature on April 14 to tell Education Minister Liz Sandals to keep our demonstration and provincial schools open. OPSEU members are warmly invited to join them in person, if possible, or at least in spirit.
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016
Time: 12:00 Noon
Location: Main entrance to the Legislative Assembly, Queen’s Park, Toronto
Four buses will bring school supporters from:
- Belleville, with a stop in Oshawa
Convention 2016 attendees: Sign the petition and be part of the rally on April 14.
What is happening with demonstration and provincial schools?
The Ministry of Education is considering closing all four demonstration schools (for students with severe learning disabilities) and one provincial school (for students with hearing impairment) at the end of the current school year (June 2016):
- Trillium Demonstration School in Milton
- Amethyst Demonstration School in London
- Sagonaska Demonstration School in Belleville
- Centre Jules-Léger in Ottawa (demonstration and provincial school)
- Robarts School for the Deaf in London (provincial school)
Both types of schools are operated by the Provincial Schools Branch of the Ministry of Education. Teachers are employed by the Provincial Schools Authority or are seconded from district school boards. About 425 students attend provincial schools and 153 students attend demonstration schools.
Liz Sandals’ “consultation”
In February 2016, Education Minister Liz Sandals announced there would be a consultation process with education and community stakeholders on these five schools’ future. She has invited input – from current and former students, parents of former and current students, teachers, staff and others – online surveys, with a deadline of April 8. A decision is expected in June.
All signs point to shuttered schools
OPSEU believes the consultation is just a preliminary exercise to permanently shutting down the schools:
- The admissions process has stopped.
- Teachers on secondment from school boards are returning to their home schools.
- In its communications, the ministry makes the frequent claim that enrolment is declining at the demonstration schools – a claim that is disputed, but which may be the justification for the government’s ultimately closing the schools.
- The ministry is saying Ontario is the only province to offer a residence program for students with severe disabilities.
What happens to students when their schools close?
On its web page, the ministry says students with learning disabilities will be supported by district school boards. But parents and teachers say years of underfunding mean cash-starved special‑education programs at Ontario boards cannot begin to support these kids.
Who is speaking out at Queen’s Park?
Members of the NDP and PC caucuses have been raising the issue, notably:
- Lisa Gretzky (NDP)
- Teresa Armstrong (NDP)
- Steve Clark (PC)
- Todd Smith (PC)
Parents fight back
- Petitions have been circulated for tabling in the legislature.
- Parents have launched Facebook pages to gather support and tell their stories.
OPSEU stands in solidarity
OPSEU is supporting parents, students and staff in their struggle to preserve the exceptional services that exceptional kids need and deserve:
- sent out an initial news release on March 4, 2016
- preparing communications products, e.g., leaflets and pamphlets
- creating a website at www.saveprovincialschools.ca
- alerting the news media to rallies through media advisories sent across Ontario
- running radio advertisements
- identifying key messages for traditional and social media
- creating a network of members who can work with parent groups in their communities
- encouraging municipal governments to pass resolutions in favour of the schools
- providing media training for parents and members
- gathering success stories and forwarding them to the consultant, The Strategic Counsel
- organizing consultations between the employer and the Ministry Employee Relations Committee (MERC)
- creating and circulating petitions, particularly at Convention 2016
Help save our schools!
Hundreds of vulnerable children and their families are counting on friends and allies to stop the government’s austerity wrecking ball from levelling demonstration and provincial schools. Get involved!
For information on how you can join the fight, please contact:
Daryl O’Grady, President, OPSEU Local 456, 613-329-6365
Brian Chang, A/Campaigns Officer, OPSEU, 416-443-8888, ext. 8719
Visit the Convention Index page.