Recess at the only public school for special needs students in Saint-Lambert was cut short Thursday morning for good reason. REACH School principal Marie-Helen Goyetche called an emergency Zoom meeting to share some long-awaited news with the school.
“We’re here to announce very good news that Jean-François Roberge has accepted and given 17 classes in an extension off of SLI for REACH,” she told staff and students.
The English language school for special needs students aged 4 to 21 will eventually be located under one roof in an extension off Saint-Lambert International High School. The government chose it as part of their $311-million investment to modernize South Shore schools.
“All the work that’s been put in by the staff, the parents, administrators, the council of commissioners, everyone has been pushing for this and it’s just quite a happy day,” said a smiling Chair Dan Lamoureux who is the Riverside School Board Chair.
Stefanie Ventura’s son Daniel, who is affected by autism, has gone to REACH for two years. Upon hearing the news, she said, “It’s great, it’s amazing, thank you to Mr. Roberge because this is something that’s been a long time waiting.”
Quebec’s education ministry denied the previous three expansion requests, even after a promising visit from Education Minister Jean-François Roberge himself.
Regardless of how strongly he supports the school, Roberge claims it wasn’t a priority project until now.
“This one was only on my priority list but I think it’s important that its not the minister who chose this or this or this simply about what he thinks. We have to go by serious analysis, serious reflection,” he said.
When Goyetche became principal four years ago the school had 84 students, by September she said there will be close to 140 spread out across six REACH buildings in the South Shore.
Bursting at the seams, all locations don’t even have space for basic facilities like a gym and adapted washrooms.
“We’ll be able to have a library and therapy rooms where right now we don’t, we do therapy rooms in closets, small enclosed rooms because we don’t have the room,” said Goyetche.
Ever since parent Krystal White saw how much her daughter non verbal autistic daughter Nev thrives at REACH, she has has been pushing for the expansion.
“I am so thrilled that we finally are getting what we need for our students,” she said.
Along with other parents and staff, she says she can’t wait to see the positive impact proper resources will have on students’ development and future.