Quebec’s education minister has responded to the outcry from parents and staff members at REACH school, the province’s only public English-language school for special needs students aged four to 21.
Enrolment has more than doubled in the last four years and students are currently scattered across five locations, none of which are equipped with basic facilities such as a gym or library.
Parents of special needs students at REACH spoke out on Monday after the education ministry rejected the school’s request for funding earlier this month. In a letter to Global News on Tuesday, the education minister’s office explains why the school wasn’t retained on the ministry’s list of priorities of facilities in need of funding.
“Minister Roberge understands the situation at this school,” reads the letter, adding that the most urgent projects are being prioritized,” said the statement sent by Jean-Francois Roberge’s press attachee, Francis Bouchard.
“If it wasn’t accepted in the latest round of authorized projects…we strongly invite the school board to file a new request.”
The letter underlines that the CAQ government has already injected $7 billion into the expansion and renovation of schools, which it claims is three and a half times what the previous (Liberal) government did over the same period.
REACH school’s governing board wrote a letter to the minister last week deploring the lack of funding and received a response from the minister’s office late Monday, with the promise of a meeting with the minister that has yet to be scheduled.
“We’re still very disappointed because we did the project together with the ministry and followed all the directives that we were told to follow,” said REACH’s principal, Marie-Helen Goyetche.
The school had made three previous requests, and administrators can’t imagine why a fourth would provide different results.
“It’s unbelievably sad that we actually have to apply a fourth time,” said parent Krystal Whyte.
“This situation is dire, our kids need a new school,” said governing board member Stephanie Ventura. “It’s insulting that he (the minister) thinks we have the time to do a new application when he was the one who helped us.”
The project to build a new school is estimated at $40M. Some of the funding for a gym had already been secured and a various factors, including the minister’s visit to the school last year, made many feel a new school was a given.
“Everything was looking good and now we have to restart it all over again,” said Riverside school board chair Dan Lamoureux. “The impression from the parents and from the staff is that they are second-class citizens.”
Parents haven’t ruled out stepping up pressure tactics to send a clear message to the minister that they aren’t willing to wait years before getting the school’s 118 special needs students and dozens of staff members under the same roof.
“Enough is enough, the time is now.” said Whyte.
“We plan on doing more if our voice isn’t heard.”