The following is a submitted Op/Ed article. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.
Kevin Krzyzanowski is a parent to an autistic son, Steven, in a province that has failed to provide recovery supports and emergency services for students with special needs affected by rolling pandemic ‘lockdowns.’
Krzyzanowski, like many other parents across the province, has watched his loved one suffer because of an evaporation of services within schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The services in question are offered through Bridges to Community, a special education program for high school students offered through the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) — but Krzyzanowski says that, because of COVID-19 ‘lockdowns’ (restrictions, closures, etc.) there has been no ‘community.’ Steven and other Ontarians in his situation are in desperate need of emergency services, one of which would be an extension of Steven’s program. But Steven and other Ontarians with special needs have been neglected, shortchanged, and left behind.
“My son graduated high school in Kingston three years ago. Within that time, he was supposed to have 30 months of community programming, whether volunteering or working in workplaces or community organizations,” says Krzyzanowski. “Instead, he has only received eight of the regular 30 months of programming due to ‘lockdowns.’ And nothing is being done about it.”
Krzyzanowski says that, without the consistent time working within the community, Steven will lose countless opportunities to network and develop skills needed to transition to life after high school.
Since 2020, Krzyzanowski has been advocating to have Steven’s program extended one year. During that time, the ALCDSB has sidestepped questions. After months of advocacy by Krzyzanowski, the board refused the extension and said nothing further can be done, following a Ministry response: the Ministry said that once a student turns 21 the Ministry of Social Services, not the Ministry of Education, is now responsible for the student.
“I, as a parent, was never consulted or involved in conversations between the school board and the Ministry,” Krzyzanowski says. “I’m surely not the only one to question if the Ministry is trying to save the government money by cutting the costs of the most marginalized.”
“Where was the emergency support for the Ontarians who are most marginalized? Where was the emergency support for Steven?” he continues. “Should I be surprised? My son hasn’t had an educational assessment since Grade 8, so how would the school board ever manage effective programming with accurate monitoring of progress? The services within this province for my son and others with special needs has been deplorable for decades. Our family almost moved to Alberta just to have more opportunities and services for Steven.”
Krzyzanowski says he hopes to bring awareness to the degradation of services in Ontario schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Above all, though, it’s about everything I can do for Steven,” Krzyzanowski concludes. “Like any parent in my shoes, I have to fight. The school board and the Ministry both say they can’t do anything. For me, that’s not an option.”
Kingston resident and friend of the Krzyzanowski family
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