Province making changes in special needs education

New plans for special education are being met positively by some school board chairs in Central Alberta, but they’re still waiting to see how the province will finance its new framework.

New plans for special education are being met positively by some school board chairs in Central Alberta, but they’re still waiting to see how the province will finance its new framework.

Alberta Education hasn’t yet said what funding for the new plan will look like, but has suggested there will be an emphasis on inclusive learning and having a learning team made up of parents and teachers, etc.

The proposed changes also suggest there will be a collaboration between Alberta Education, the school authority, school and other service providers in the community and more wraparound service programs will be offered to ensure student’s needs are met.

Lorrie Jess, the chair of the Wolf Creek Public Schools Board, said the division has been inclusive for a number of years, having hired special needs facilitators for each one of the schools to meet the needs of special needs students and prevent them from falling through the cracks.

“(The framework) seems to be pretty visionary and it supports teachers. It should also provide equitable opportunities for all students,” Jess said.

Her two concerns — neither of which have yet been discussed in Alberta Education’s plans — are how the plan will be funded and how it will be implemented.

“It’s great in theory, wonderful. It’s visionary, but how are you going to fund it and that hasn’t been told to us,” Jess said. “I see the financing of such a framework as an integral component of the overall design of the Setting the Direction initiative.”

In terms of the implementation of the plan, Jess said if Alberta Education is talking about cross-ministerial involvement and legislation it will have to happen over time, rather than all at once.

Christine Moore, chair of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division board, said the wraparound services with cross-ministerial involvement sounds great, but there is a lot of work to do and consultation. She said plans for inclusivity align with what the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division is already doing.

Moore wants to know what the funding model will look like because she said the school divisions can’t do anything without adequate funding and without supports for teachers.

“We’re very interested and somewhat excited in what is being visioned, but it is crucial that we have the infrastructure and the collaboration from the cross ministries, and the support in the classroom for our teachers,” Moore said.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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