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Board understaffed for new provincial standard

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Making the grade under Ontario’s new guidelines isn’t going to be easy for the pupils—or the teachers, who may find themselves understaffed and overworked under the new curriculum.

Tom Fry, who works in curriculum services with the Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education, said students who are not making the provincial standard of 70 percent, or a B-minus, will be issued independent education plans (IEPs) so they can catch up with the rest of the class.

But the big question revolves around who’s going to provide these IEPs? For the most part, it’s going to the classroom teacher.

Bob Derksen, special education co-ordinator for the local public school board, said his division will still deal mostly with "exceptional" students.

"Those IEPs, which look like remedial IEPs, will be the responsibility of the classroom teacher," he said. "There’s still some special education involvement but the ones who haven’t met a standard will be the responsibility of the classroom."

"We’ve already got that defined in the policy," agreed Fry, noting the first level of involvement is with the classroom teacher, then the special education resource person.

In fact, Fry said the classroom teacher will be needed to identify the learning problem specifically, and "may have the resources to do [the IEP] themselves."

But not everybody will have the time to do it themselves.

Meanwhile, Derksen said the special education department was not trying to hang other teachers out to dry, and would help as much as they could. Right now, however, that isn’t much.

"We do have some special education resource teachers that are dealing only with exceptional students and have full caseloads," Dersken said.

"Writing these IEPs will mean more paperwork for everybody," he added.

To make matters worse, many schools only have a part-time special education person on staff. And Fry said there’s no indication the government plans to add more money to the education system anytime soon.

"I think we’re going to find that we are not going to be able to do it with high efficiency given the current manpower situation," he admitted though trying to remain optimistic.

"We’ll do out best we can," he stressed.

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