The Ontario government has reopened the application process for new students to attend publicly funded schools for children with severe learning disabilities, but parents fear that the future of these schools is still in jeopardy.
Three so-called demonstration schools for students with learning disabilities in Milton, Belleville and London have been under the government's microscope, The Globe and Mail first reported. The province has also conducted consultations on a school for the deaf in London and a francophone school in Ottawa for deaf children and those with learning disabilities.
The schools, established in the late 1970s and early 80s and run by the Ministry of Education, allow the children to stay overnight during the week and provide supports for students with exceptional learning and developmental needs that they would not otherwise receive in the regular school environment. Students attending demonstration schools generally return to the regular school system over time.
The admissions process was on hold while the government held consultations, but Education Minister Liz Sandals released a statement Wednesday saying students are now welcome to apply for admission in the fall.
But Ms. Sandals did not rule out looking at the admission process again, and indicated that no decision has been made on the future of the schools.
The government's announcement came a day before parents planned to demonstrate outside Queen's Park and urge politicians to save their schools.
Ruth Bourachot, who heads the parents council at Trillium Demonstration School in Milton, was skeptical of Ms. Sandals' statement. She said the government has not indicated its future plans for the schools and could still be looking to save money despite the needs of children.
Ms. Bourachot said her 12-year-old son started attending Trillium in the fall and his reading ability has already shown significant progress.
"They're trying to throw us off, make us look like we're fools," she said. "It's politics. It's all a game. They're hoping parents will back off."