Some parents in Whitby say they are concerned after hearing that the Durham District School Board is contemplating scrapping a year-round school program that helps children struggling with full-time learning.
Parents said the board is thinking to scrap the year-round program at C.E. Broughton Public School by fall 2020, despite the fact that it has helped many students academically.
“For my son, it was a lifesaver,” said John Higo, a Whitby parent whose son has autism. “When he started with the program, he couldn’t deal with full-term school. He was having meltdowns … missing a lot of school because of it.”
The year-round school program spaces breaks throughout the year — essentially, every eight or nine weeks — with a five-week summer break. The program’s advocates say it reduces stress and helps kids retain information better.
“I do feel that I’m better at remembering information with the five-week break. I feel like if I had a nine-week break I would pretty much forget everything I learn,” 10-year-old Isla Higo said
C.E. Broughton has offered year-round schooling for ten years, but due to declining enrolment, a new DDSB report proposes halting the program.
In 2009, there were 270 students in the program, but in 2019, the number dropped to 103. Board members are predicting that number will fall to just 92 by 2023.
“We want to be able to use our resources efficiently ... for the benefit of our students,” Georgette Davis, the board’s superintendent of education, said. “Enrolment is one of the factors we look at.”
But John Higo, and other parents who support the program, say parents aren’t enrolling their kids because they aren’t aware the program exists.
“They haven’t advertised it, they haven’t promoted it, it’s not even offered as a program on their own website. If it was, the numbers, I’m sure, would be a lot greater,” he said.
The school board admits that it doesn’t advertise the program like it does for others, such as the French immersion program.
“French immersion is a specific program. It’s not a regular or modified program, so we use advertisement with kindergarten and French immersion,” Davis told CTV News Toronto.
The board held a consultation with parents in mid-November, and said it still wants to hear parents’ suggestions via email and phone before it files a report with board trustees in late January.
The Board will make a final decision on the fate of the program on January 20.