June 3, 2019, Calgary Star: Alberta NDP raises alarm over school resources after special needs students turned away https://www.thestar.com/calgary/2019/06/03/alberta-ndp-raises-alarm-over-school-resources-after-special-needs-students-turned-away.html The NDP is raising concerns about the amount of funding available for special needs students in Alberta, as a projected rise in the student population this fall could put more strain on the education system. NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said on Monday that two families of Catholic school students with special needs approached Alberta’s official Opposition saying their children were turned away from returning for a fourth year of high school. Albertans can access public education until they’re 19 years old, but these students were turned away because of a lack of sufficient resources and facilities, according to letters between the families and the Calgary Catholic School District dated May 2019. … Hoffman criticized the United Conservative government for not stating yet how much funding will be provided to Alberta’s schools this fall, and whether it will match the student population’s expected growth. Roughly 15,000 more students are expected at Alberta schools this fall, and the government’s plan to allow students up to the age of 21 to access public high school would increase that number further. “I think it’s very devastating, I don’t think it’s right. I think that these students with severe special needs should have the opportunity to benefit from their fourth year as they’re entitled to under the current act,” said Hoffman, who called on Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to ensure enough funding is provided for these students…. The new United Conservative Party government has promised to replace the current School Act with the Education Act of 2012, which was voted on but never officially acclaimed. One part of the act allows students up to 21 years old to access public education, which is a move supported by many Alberta teachers and education advocates…. “We cannot be turning people away because we say this school or our school system cannot provide adequate support to ensure your child gets a quality education,” Dewald said. The Calgary Board of Education projects that extending the age of access to 21 could bring an additional 1,700 students into its schools, and the CBE is preparing a budget under the assumption it won’t receive an increase in funding from last year to match the enrolment growth. This gap means classroom sizes, which are sometimes already hovering around 30 to 40 students in Alberta, could continue to grow, and schools may struggle to have the necessary supports in place for these students…. Training on things like finding work, feeling comfortable in a professional environment and setting a budget are important to help students with special needs prepare for adulthood, Brookwell said. … At Children’s Link, Dewald says she has heard from an increasing number of teachers over the last few years who want more supports to work with students who have complex learning needs. This could include more training or more people in classrooms, whether they’re professionals or volunteers, to help them….
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