Alternate learning programs slated for closure

SD#83 officials are defending changes to programs geared towards students with behavioural and mental health issues.

North Okanagan-Shuswap School District officials are defending changes to programs geared towards students with behavioural and mental health issues.

The four alternate programs that serve up to 32 students a year will be closed.

“We are using this funding to build more services and supports into our brick and mortar schools as we cannot sustain the alternate school model that cost upwards of $27,000 a year per student,” said Morag Asquith, director of student learning.

“We are excited about this restructuring as it fulfills many of the challenges we face operating the alternate model that had been identified in the review process.”

But the parent of a student who was part of the school district’s alternate program is upset by its closure.

Debbie Latimer says her son had extreme difficulty in a regular school environment and was spending nearly every day in the principal’s office.

“After testing, meetings and lots of talking he was placed in the alternate program. It saved our family. Unless you have a kid who has been personally challenged like this, you have no idea how hard it is on everyone involved,” she says.

Latimer says putting some of these students back into regular classrooms does a disservice to both the special needs students and the other students in that classroom.

“It saddens me a lot that this program is being cut. It is a huge mistake and the long-term repercussions will be grim.”

But Asquith says the goal is to build more learning resource teacher time, provide greater capacity with classroom teachers, more learning resource teacher time into our rural schools and additional school psychologist time to behaviour assessment time

“This restructuring was not a board decision. It was a committee of people working together to determine what is the best way to proceed with supports for students,” said Asquith.

“This committee involved principals, alternate teachers, school psychologists, counsellors, parents and classroom teachers.”

Asquith is now leaving the district after she accepted a position as the associate superintendent with the school district in Lethbridge, Alta.

“I am excited for the professional opportunity that this provides for Morag and her family, but sad to be losing such a strong leader for the student services department,” said Glenn Borthistle, North Okanagan-Shuswap superintendent.

I would like to thank Morag for the seven excellent years of service to our students and how she has tirelessly advocated on behalf of more vulnerable populations working with community, families and students. “

Asquith’s last day with the district is June 15.