The possible closure of Parkway Elementary has Angela Browett most worried about the major adjustment her six-year-old daughter with autism will have to make.
“What happens to these students who are reluctant to change; are they going to get left behind? Because bigger schools just brush them off in my experience,” she told the board of School District 67 during a public consultation at the school on Dec. 7. “I don’t see them benefiting from moving to another school.”
Browett said when her daughter first began kindergarten at the school, it was a difficult transition that caused her to lose her speech for a short time. Her daughter eventually became comfortable at Parkway after building relationships with staff and becoming familiar with the environment.
“And then now we’re going to have to change again, and I don’t know what that’s going to bring for our family let alone the number of other families with autistic children.”
Superintendent Wendy Hyer said that in the event of a closure, all staff members will transfer to the same school as the students.
“We have very professional educators and (Educational Assistant’s) who would be aware of which students are (special needs) and efforts would be made to make that transition as smooth as possible,” Hyer said. “When you combine the schools you combine all their resources and you create a bit more flexibility to better meet the needs of vulnerable kids.”
Despite the likelihood of familiar faces being a part of her daughter’s new school, Browett doesn’t want to send her daughter into an unfamiliar environment.
“We would still be that same comfortable environment even if there wasn’t the same EA,” said Hyer.
Hyer also said that fewer schools, through economy of scale, would allow for better distribution of staff resources. However, the board can never ensure the retention of individual staff members.
“Every year, regardless of whether we close a school or not an EA could choose to move to another school,” Hyer said. “There’s no guarantee either way.”
Afterwards, Browett said she found Hyer’s response to be too technical.
“It didn’t speak to families directly, it almost felt like a sluff off rather than an answer,” she said.
It was also brought up at the meeting that the school’s expected enrolment over the next 10 years averages out to slightly exceeded capacity. Since Parkway won’t have room for new students in the event that other schools are closed, there will be challenges with re-configuration.
“As far as the school being at capacity, it works for the families here,” Browett said. “I don’t know many that have issues with the class sizes.”
“There’s an option in the package that says status quo,” Hyer said. “But status quo doesn’t really mean status quo, because at the end of the day, it’s a choice about how we spend our dollars.”
SD67 is considering closures because trustees have to cut their budget by approximately $1.1 million by the end of this school year, and then $750,000 next year and another $750,000 again the year following.
“So it’s really a choice of where we make those savings – closing empty classrooms or reducing services and support.”
The final feedback presentation in the process takes place at Queen’s Park on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. The school district will make its decision on Jan. 20.