I've spent thirty years dealing with our education system and mental health system with three children who have complex needs. Now the Board is creating a more unequal education system than ever.
By Cheryl Hobbins
Published February 18, 2014
Parkview Secondary School was a part of our family's life not too long ago.
My son struggled within a regular school and was placed on a "wait list" for an available spot into Parkview's special programs. My son had given up on his education and did not care about his future.
On return in September to Parkview, every support was made available to my child. That team effort within Parkview began an extraordinary journey of life changes, trust and forgiveness. As a mother, I watched my son mature, embrace learning and create a vision for his future.
Parkview became our extended family as my son began to embrace life and build trusting relationships with the principal, staff, teachers and supports within the school. He was not only a part of the special program but could now accept the value of an education and thus improve on all the subjects he once despised.
Parkview undoubtedly became the stepping stones that would build up his self esteem, motivation and skill to someday do something in his life. The uniqueness of the program and the qualities of each individual member can never be duplicated or re created under any circumstance.
There are currently 233 children enrolled in Parkview's specialized programs. I strongly urge city representatives to review all documents relevant to the process of the Parkview closure.
Presently there are close to a thousand people who have signed our petition asking to stop the closure until a real community consultation takes place, and the number continues to grow.
That number shows great concern not only with a decision made by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), but also the path chosen by the Board to ignore the important recommendations of the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC).
Students with complex mental health needs deserve both an education and their own school to call their own. The population is small compared to the other secondary schools, but the School Board has decided the fate of each individual student without due process in our democratic society.
Parkview allows for 233 individual education plans (IEP), customized to each individual child related to specific educational needs. Parkview provides specific qualities of each teacher, staff and support worker that are rare and irreplaceable. Losing these unique assets for children's mental health will leave a disparity in the education system.
Transitional planning will never measure up to what is being dismantled. There is clearly a separate agenda interrupted by our once-trusted Board officials. These enrollment numbers, manageable because Parkview is a specialized placement, will only grow more inequality within the 'traditional school setting".
Parkview students, teachers, supports and staff need to be appropriately housed and not pushed into another school space temporarily.
Attention needs to focus on the obvious "short-cut" made by the HWDSB; the unjustified decision to close a specialized school and the decision reversed until all recommendations are matched or compatible to the specialized programs. Parkview Students are vulnerable and at risk if this mindset continues.
I've spent thirty years dealing with our education system and mental health system with three children who have complex needs. Now in 2014, the Board is creating a more unequal education system than ever.
I stress that we are going backwards. The entire process as a parent and advocate stress that the Parkview students gained will be lost forever in manipulated statistics and numbers outside of the public eye.
In closing, here is a quote taken from the Ontario site for Parents for Children's Mental Health:
PCMH maintains that the only way to effectively and meaningfully transform our system is through input from families, children, and youth - those who are actually receiving services and being required to navigate the silos and uncoordinated system currently in place.
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