Swansea parents are concerned recent school board cuts will jeopardize the safety of young children because half-day kindergartens will be left with no education assistants.
The Toronto District School Board’s budget eliminated 430 educational assistants and while early childhood educators are mandated for the province’s new full-day kindergartens, those won’t arrive at Swansea Junior and Senior Public School until at least the 2013-2014 school year.
Swansea parents are worried their school could be affected more than others due to perceived safety concerns.
“Because the kindergarten is sort of off on its own and connected to a community centre, it’s a little bit of a different situation compared to what I imagine a lot of schools have,” said parent Heather Chiavegato, who has a child in kindergarten at Swansea.
“That’s why the openness of the (recreation) centre is a concern, because it’s an easy way for someone to get into the school,” she said.
What most concerns Chiavegato is that the only barrier between the school and community centre is a small baby gate because a fire inspection deemed the area unsafe for an additional door.
Ward 7 trustee Irene Atkinson says educational assistants are also invaluable for when teachers are overburdened, such as in a situation when one child is injured and another needs to go to the washroom.
“If something like that happens, you’re all by yourself, so what to do you do?” she said. “There’s no extra pair of hands.”
That could pose a particular problem at Swansea, where all 100 kindergarten students share a small washroom accessed via a hallway that is also accessible to strangers in the community centre. Traditionally, educational assistants escorted them.
The Swansea School Council says educational assistants also helped with escorting students to the kindergarten area from the school bus drop off area, as well as with pool and library supervision.
Atkinson attempted to reopen the issue at the school board’s budget meeting by moving a motion that would raise the number of education assistants so there would be enough for half-day kindergartens in 2012. But that motion failed by a vote of 17–5.
Now Swansea parents are trying to get a bridge of help for the upcoming school year. They’ve sent a letter to Minister of Education, Laurel Broten, the Minister of Child and Youth Services, Eric Hoskins, the director of the Toronto District School Board, Chris Spence and Premier Dalton McGuinty.
They’ve haven’t heard back.
“We’re sort of regrouping to formulate our next move … if there are things that can be done, we’ll be doing them throughout the summer and into the fall,” Chiavegato said.