Parents concerned by merger of schools for children with disabilities
Published Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:02AM EDT
Parents are concerned that a plan to merge schools for the disabled will put children in an overcrowded, cramped building.
This September all the students at the Philip E. Layton school for the Visually Impaired will leave their Sherbrooke St. W. building and move to the Mackay Centre School for Deaf and Disabled children.
Both schools are operated by the English Montreal School Board and for the most part parents of children with disabilities are happy with the move.
"The move itself, I think, is a very good idea. Having everybody under one school is fantastic," said Ann Gagnon.
The EMSB says the Mackay Centre is better adapted to children with disabilities, however it has concerns about security that it does not believe the owners of the MAB-Mackay building are addressing.
The Centre is used for adults undergoing physical rehabilitation, and parents say that puts children at risk.
"We have some washrooms that are right now being used by adults or outsiders," said Sima Hannaux, who has a child attending classes at the Centre.
Valerie Shannon, president of the rehabilitation centre's board of directors, agrees that space is at a premium.
"We have one major conference room for our two sites and it's a multi-purpose conference room and we cannot give it up," said Shannon.
Angela Mancini, chair of the EMSB, believes the two agencies are at an impasse.
"Unfortunately it's to the detriment of Mackay students because we would need extra space that is right now not available," Mancini said.
But she has a solution: Mancini believes the EMSB should buy the MAB-Mackay centre and stop renting space.
Shannon said the Centre would we willing to sell, and that the previous provincial government showed interest.
"They made us an offer but then there was an election so we have not been able to sit down with the Ministry of Education and negotiate the final details of the sale of the Mackay site," Shannon said.
The EMSB does not think it will be that simple.
"I don't think that the PQ government made any openings that were of any significance to us," she said.
The Quebec government has allocated funds for two new schools for French-language students with disabilities, and many believe it is time for anglophones with the same needs to receive the funding they require as well.