TORONTO — Students at the province's five schools for the deaf, blind, blind-deaf, and severely-learning disabled will receive 96 fewer hours of support per school year starting in September, says the union representing staff at these schools.
The Ministry of Education is reducing by three weeks the seasonal employment of 400 support staff including residence counsellors at the schools. Residence counsellors work one-on-one with students, teaching them leadership and advocacy skills so they can exercise their right to participate, with accommodation, in community life.
"We help create students who are strong advocates for people with disabilities and we are proud of that work," said Chris Cormier, a residence counsellor at the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville and a vice-president for eastern Ontario with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). "Nearly all of our students go on to college or university because of the training we provide."
More than 600 students attend the five provincial schools and three demonstration schools either as day students or on a residential placement. The affected schools are: Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville, The Robarts School for the Deaf in London, W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, and Centre Jules-Léger in Ottawa.
"This harmful decision by the government is just the latest in a series of moves designed to make it more difficult for students with disabilities to get what they need to succeed," said OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. "We are concerned that these cuts are just a precursor to closing down one or more of our schools altogether. If so, that would be a profound injustice to the students, their families and the communities in which they live."
OPSEU Regional Vice President