Advocates and teachers from four schools for the deaf and blind in Ontario gathered at the Roberts School for the Deaf in London to address the lack of funding for deaf education.
About 30 students, parents and staff were outside Roberts on Tuesday afternoon to draw attention to the issue. The London School, which serves students from pre-school to high school, is one of four public-funded schools for deaf students in Ontario.
“There are so many things that need to be touched; A major problem is negligence. We are requesting funding that has not been approved where other schools are being approved by various school boards, “said Tamara Witcher, president of the Provincial School Authority Teachers (PSAT) D30.
“Schools for the deaf, blind schools are not being sanctioned for funding, for resources. Our buildings are collapsing. ”
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The PSAT D30 represents teachers working in four provincial schools in Ontario: the EC Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, the Roberts School for the Deaf in London, the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville and the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind in Brantford.
Witcher noted that the Brantford School for the Blind has a roof that is in a cave and Roberts in London had a boiler break in February and students were forced to learn in the cold for more than a month before fixing it.
“A public school had a similar problem and they immediately closed the school and fixed it and came back in two days,” he said.
Organizers are calling for more funding and resources from the provincial government, more qualified staff, and more transparency and accountability.
Another key issue lawyers are raising is the lack of staff, which Witcher says alternate teachers sometimes cover two classes at once.
Jonathan McCallum is in 9th grade at the Roberts School for the Deaf in London and Jamil Stewart is in 10th grade. The two were at a rally on Tuesday to show support and advocacy for their education.
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“We’ve noticed a lot of cuts to teachers and transfers, and we’ve noticed that things are happening that haven’t happened before,” McCallum said.
“There’s a constant supply of teachers coming in and coming out and it’s incredibly noticeable and it’s consistent.”
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McCallum says he wants to be able to take elective courses like photography, but says he has no choice because of a lack of staff.
“We can’t do physical education because we don’t have regular teachers there, so we need continuous teachers to be able to teach us as opposed to supply teachers coming,” Stuart said.
The two said they wanted the resources to continue learning with their colleagues in a “rich” deaf environment.
“We are people who are not deaf, we can’t hear. But if we are given the same access, the same support, the same things to the rest of the population, we can grow up to be as successful as they are, “McCallum said.
School enrollment is declining, but Witcher says this is not because there are fewer deaf people in Ontario. He thinks the reason is that people are not being made aware of their options, noting that he met a deaf man who lived in London, Ont., All his life but only when he was an adult there was a school for the deaf.
PSAT District 30 Officer David Sykes said there were at least 42 students on the waiting list to participate in Roberts in London but they were not being admitted because the provincial government had closed their resource services department during COVID-19 and still could not reopen it.
Sykes says schools’ problems are “long-term” and need to be addressed
Tuesday’s rally will be held in one of the four schools in the province, one in four.
Last week, a Belleville deafness was held at the Sir James Whitney School where more than 130 people watched. A week ago, the Ernest Sea Dury School for the Deaf was held in Milton. The next rally will be held in Brantford.
– wIth file from Megan King of Global News
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