Ending with a Whimper

My son Aaron has not been to in-person school since March 6, 2020, when the pandemic arrived. He was midway through Grade 11.

He’s eligible for a bonus Grade 13 this year because he is considered a ‘funded student’ as he has Down syndrome. After today's Back to School press conference from our provincial government, we’ve decided – together with Aaron – that he’s never going back to school.

The lack of online learning options and public health measures like social distancing, smaller classes and proof of vaccinations for staff and students are the nails in the school coffin.

Suddenly, just like that, Aaron is finished school.

One friend said to me, “it’s not worth fighting a system that has never been there for our kids.” She’s right. I don’t trust the provincial government to make schools safe for my son, who is double-vaxxed but still high risk for being hospitalized or dying from COVID. When the trust is gone, there’s nothing left.

Aaron has been in school since he started pre-school when he was only two years old. He’s always had a support worker – and he’s had many, some of whom he keeps in touch with: Jess, Mrs. Brock, Mrs. O’Hara and recently Chris, who has been with him for five years, since Grade 8. I am grateful for these skilled Educational Assistants (EAs) who have been a big part of his life.

School has not been easy for Aaron. The education system is also not a walk in the park for any family who has a child with a disability. Aaron had terrible years from Grade 1 to 3, with an EA who didn’t understand him and who corrected his every move. At the same time, Aaron learned about being the target of a bully at the tender age of seven. The child who bullied him was the son of a prominent lawyer and doctor. We got no support from principal at that school with the bullying situation, so we ended up having to sell our house and move to another neighbourhood to get Aaron into a gentler school, with a Vice-Principal who knew him and looked out for him.

Aaron was in Grade 6 when we moved provinces from Alberta to British Columbia. My husband and I interviewed seven principals to see what school would be the best fit for him. Once we took out the schools where the principals spoke only about Aaron in terms of funding dollars, we had few schools left and had to find a rental in a tight housing market that was in the school catchment area. This was a nightmare.

No, if you have a kid who requires ‘funding,’ they cannot just go to any school. It does not work that way. I learned not to bother fighting a school to accept your child. You never win and your child is the one who suffers.