Cowichan Valley school board’s ‘restoration budget’ falls far short

Susan Stacey worries that School District 79's "restoration budget" falls short, particularly in special education.

Editor:

Re: Cowichan school board’s restoration budget

I am writing to express concern about the Cowichan Valley school board’s restoration budget passed on May 16.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for providing support services children need at school, and this includes occupational therapy.

As this district’s only part-time occupational therapist [OT] for the past 19 years, I am in a good position to comment on the “deficit” budget school trustees passed on May 16.

Funding for OT used to provide an average of about two hours of OT each month for students on the OT caseload, double that for children with more complex needs and half for children with lesser needs.

Over the past 19 years, the number of children with physical disabilities/chronic health impairments and autism has increased tenfold, and yet the OT position has been reduced by 40 per cent. Students now receive an average of one hour of OT support a year, far short of the 20 hours they used to receive.

The impact is far greater than simply a reduction in direct OT time. It is also not possible to create and oversee individual OT programs that could be carried out by other support staff.

OT is only one of many areas cut as a result of the annual shortfall in funding. It has been very difficult watching the gradual erosion of other special education services. At some point, someone needs to stand up and say “enough is enough.”

I voted for trustees I thought would not only listen to staff and parents but would also take action.

My concern about the “restoration budget” is that it falls far short, particularly in the area of special education. Trustees have indicated this “restoration” is only a start. I am sure those whose lives are touched by someone with special needs would agree.

Susan Stacey

Duncan