'The school is failing her': Victoria parents outraged over lack of educational assistant support
Parents at View Royal Elementary school are upset after hearing that their children's educational assistants (EAs) were being pulled.
Jennifer Wark says she's disappointed in School District 61's (SD61) treatment of her 10-year-old autistic daughter, Abby, after she found out her daughter would go unsupported, for half the day.
"It's not supposed to be like this," Wark says. "You're supposed to be able to get help if you need it."
Wark says Abby is unable to read, write, or spell on her own, making her dependent on the help she gets from an EA, which she used to have full time. Without one, Wark says Abby isn't able to participate in classroom activities which compromises her education.
"When the school is failing her so badly, the way it is right now, I see a very large gap — a failure for them to provide her with a good future," said Wark.
The union attributes the lack of support to a shortage of EAs in the Greater Victoria School District, adding that while educational assistants love working with the kids, they often can't afford to.
While parents say it's been a problem in Victoria for years, the Sooke school district isn’t facing the same crisis. The union says it's seen many EAs move to SD62 because it is offering full time hours.
"It's unfortunate that our district hasn’t been able to sort out what Sooke did," says Jane Massy, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 947 president. "Why a big district like ours can't do the same remains to be seen."
The province says it provides the district funding for each child who requires a certain level of extra support; what that money is used for, however, is up to the district. It doesn’t necessarily go towards hiring an EA for support.
In Abby's situation, she's in a class with 22 other kids, three of which also require the help of an EA, which they don’t see until the afternoon. It's a situation that, when asked, the district says is acceptable.
"The decision made by the district and schools is that the resources applied to each classroom are good and able to meet the needs of the students in those locations," says SD 61 Associate Superintendent, Colin Roberts.
As a result of the shortage, and decisions made, Abby's mom says she now spends the start of her mornings helping her daughter in the classroom.
Teachers in the area are also being affected by a lack of EAs.The Greater Victoria Teacher's Association says teachers are concerned about the shortage, adding that when EAs are away the entire school goes into chaos.
"When EAs are stretched too thin, people get hurt," says Massy. "It leads to this vicious cycle where people are off and there's no one to replace them."
In a statement, the Minister of Education, Rob Fleming, says "It's concerning to hear of any students not having the supports they require to thrive."
He says the province will be looking at all 60 school districts to ensure their classrooms are inclusive.