‘To put it bluntly, I was pissed off,’ – Parents angered by cancellation of program intended to help kids with learning disabilities

Daily Herald file photo

School division says supports will be integrated into regular classroom

Tracy Cassels thought she had finally found the solution for her son Kalab. After seven years of arguing with the school division about her suspicions that her son had a learning disability, Kalab was finally accepted into the Carlton Connection program. Cassels immediately noticed a change. Her son – a Grade 8 student with a Grade 3 math and writing level jumped up a grade level in just six months.

When she found out that the program that helped her son would be shuttered at the end of this school year, she wasn’t impressed.

“To put it bluntly, I was pissed off.”

Cassels is far from the only parent outraged by Saskatchewan Rivers School Division’s decision to end the program.

The only one of its kind in the province, Carlton Connection was targeted education for students with learning disabilities. With a maximum of 14 students in each class with similar learning difficulties, the program’s pamphlet boasted students feel like they are not alone, and strategies are taught for their gradual integration.

For Kalab, it was dealing with a working memory disability.

He’s only one example of the students helped through the program, which has been around for 25 years.

“It’s helped with his confidence, his self esteem, all of that.”

Cassels is worried her son will fall through the cracks once he’s reintegrated into the general school population.

“It has failed him up to this year. The school system has failed up to Grade 7 for these kids, up until they could get the help that they needed. If anything, this program needs to start sooner.”

The program’s success was about more than just giving the students the tools to succeed academically, Cassels said.

“It’s about the fundamentals in life. They’re building the foundation; they’re pouring the cement. And what the school system did was pour water over that cement, and now it’s not as solid as it should be.”

The school division understands the transition will be difficult for all those involved. In a letter sent out to all parents in the program, the division said:

“Today’s emphasis on individualized learning, differentiation and explicit teaching strategies has seen the regular classroom evolve to become a rich learning environment for all students. The needs-based model of inclusive education emphasizes the important that the regular classroom adapt to the needs of each student. Therefore (Carlton Connections) …. No longer distinguishes itself from the supports offered in regular classrooms.”

But some parents aren’t buying it.

For more on this story, please see the April 27 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.