WATCH: A group of parents of students with special needs is fighting a Greater Victoria School District proposal tonight. They say new boundaries being considered due to increasing enrollment unfairly target their kids. Kori Sidaway reports.
Cathy Nash is one proud mom.
“This is Darwyn dancing with his big sister, Mary, at her high school graduation,” said Cathy Nash, pointing to a photo of her two kids.
“He attended for 20 minutes before he had to come home and couldn’t last any longer.”
And that’s what life is like with her son, Darwyn, who has autism, Down syndrome and congestive heart failure.
Plans and patterns run their lives.
“This is the artwork of his favourite book in the whole world, which he reads five to six times a day for the past six years,” said Nash.
But the most important pattern of all, school, may be shaken up.
In their recent boundary catchment review, the Greater Victoria School District has put up Darwyn’s inclusive learning school to be possibly repurposed into an elementary school.
Kids like Darwyn would potentially move from Victor School into new purpose-built location by 2020.
The school district said this is all to alleviate capacity constraints and prepare for future enrolment pressures.
“We’ve increased by about 1,000 kids over the last four years and we’re going to continue to grow,” said Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer with the Greater Victoria School District.
“We’re going to have capacity issues, and we’re already having capacity issues at a number of our schools.”
Victor School currently houses 16 students with special needs. The district said the same space could be used for a full capacity of over 150 students. Something that would be especially useful as they look towards massive growth in the area.
But many parents said it shouldn’t all be about the numbers.
“It would be a change to the foundation of Darwyn’s world,” said Nash.
And parents worry the details of this proposed plan and new building, are unclear.
“There is no plan! We’ve asked! There is nowhere that our children are supposed to go,” said Nash.
“And these are not children that can move somewhere without a plan.”
The Nash/Danesh family has gone so far as to retain legal counsel from Mary Ellen Turpe-Lafond, B.C.’s former first Representative for Children and Youth, to help with the issue.
“These kids have rights. They have basic human rights. They have a right to learn, they have a right to be accommodated in terms of their special needs,” said Lafonde.
And Lafonde said there is legal precedence that supports their case.
“From a human rights viewpoint, the school board must tread very carefully,” warned Lafonde.
“If [the district] keeps moving in this direction, I think they’re going to find themselves in a lot of trouble soon.”
The district is still in the early stage of consultation, with a few more weeks.