Special needs numbers not in

Nanaimo school officials are still determining how many students in the district qualify for extra funding this year for special needs designations.

Nanaimo school officials are still determining how many students in the district qualify for extra funding this year for special needs designations.

An audit last February resulted in the Ministry of Education pulling about $600,000 in funding for special needs students after the review found students were put in the wrong designation category or a piece of evidence was missing from their files or their designation was outdated.

The audit resulted in the loss of roughly 30 education assistants.

Bob Esliger, district principal of student support services, told the News Bulletin last summer that schools were working to get the paperwork together in hopes that some students will get re-designated.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said the final numbers of designated students are not in yet, but this information will be available next month.

Community members have sent numerous letters to trustees – and made presentations to the board – expressing concerns that students are not receiving adequate support and asking the board to increase special needs funding.

The support workers’ union recently joined parents in speaking out about the cuts to education assistants following the special needs audit.

Ron Farino, president of CUPE Local 606, told the News Bulletin last week the loss of support workers is having huge impacts on classrooms this fall.

He has launched an awareness campaign, with plans to lobby provincial government officials, to try to get these positions restored.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said the loss of EAs this fall has exacerbated an already big problem in the district – continual underfunding from the province.

“Everybody’s reporting that when you’re going to meet one [student’s] need, you see the ball being dropped on another [student’s] need,” he said.

When an EA takes five or 10 minutes to help a student get started on his or her day in the morning, DeGear said there are sometimes two or three other students in the class who previously received support who are left struggling and it can disrupt the whole class if some students are not getting the support they need.