Robarts, Amethyst Schools Get Reprieve

Robarts School for the Deaf in London, Ontario. Photo by Ashton Patis.

Parents who have fought to keep schools like London’s Robarts School for the Deaf and Amethyst Demonstration School open appear to have won their battle.

In a statement released Monday, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says the province will keep all provincial and demonstration schools, including Robarts and Amethyst, open.

“We need to ensure equity and better serve our students who are Deaf, blind or have severe learning disabilities by providing them with robust services and effective programs in their home communities,” says Hunter in the statement. “The consultation gave us valuable insight and feedback about how to best meet students’ needs so they can reach their full potential in school, and in life. It is important for us to listen to parents and to respond to their advice and insights. I want to thank them for their passion and perspective.”

Parents of students who attend the schools had fought to stop the planned closings of the schools, which was recommended in the 2012 Drummond Report.

In April, despite a rally attended by thousands of the schools’ supporters, a motion from MPP Lisa Gretzky (NDP) calling on the government to guarantee the schools would stay open beyond next year was defeated as all 44 Liberal MPPs voted against it. The day before, then-Education Minister Liz Sandals announced that applications for admission to the schools were being accepted for the 2016-2017 school year.

However, at least one parent isn’t convinced the announcement is a victory for the schools.

“Everyone who is reading it (the release) is celebrating and saying it is a victory. But if you go back and read it again, the line just above where it says the demonstration schools will remain open, it says year, not years,” says Wendy Haggitt whose daughter has attended Amethyst Demonstration School for two years.

“The way that they worded it was very deceiving,” says Haggitt. “I read it once and I was excited that we won. But I read it again and was like ‘wait, there is no “s” on the word year.’ It could be that they are just keeping it open for this coming year, then closing it.”

Parents and representatives from the seven provincial and demonstration schools will attend a meeting with the Education Minister in Milton at 6pm on Monday.

Haggitt hopes the province will clarify its long term plans for the schools at that time.