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Accessibility Hot Topic at School Review Meeting

By Todd Vandonk
Mar 01, 2011 – 9:33 AM

PCVS Foundation promises to pay for school upgrades, while report finds only Kenner Collegiate is completely barrier-free

Kenner Collegiate meeting. The second of four school review meetings took place at Kenner Collegiate Monday, Feb. 28. Todd Vandonk

(PETERBOROUGH) Russel Winkelaar didn’t take the microphone to pit one school against another. The former Kenner Collegiate graduate simply wanted to shed light on the importance of accessibility.

“When you are encountered with inaccessible places it is an absolute nightmare,” said Mr. Winklaar at Monday’s (Feb. 28) accommodation review committee (ARC) meeting.

The ARC meetings are being held to determine if the public board needs to shut the doors at one of four city high schools because of declining enrollment.

Monday’s meeting was the second of four with the next meeting scheduled for April 7 at Adam Scott Collegiate. Kenner, Adam Scott, Peterborough Collegiate (PCVS) and Thomas A. Stewart are the schools under the microscope.

“I was very happy to be included in all aspects of the schools here,” added Mr. Winkelaar, who is in a wheelchair.

Mr. Winkelaar was school valedictorian and was able to address the class of 2001 from the stage at commencement.

“Something as small as that is immeasurable in my memory,” he noted.

“I was very pleased to be able to give my speech from atop of the stage rather down here. I can’t stress how enough how wonderful accessibility is.”

Accessibility was a hot topic at Monday’s meeting. Earlier in the night, the 34-member committee and about 200 interested spectators listened to an accessibility presentation by occupational therapist Ann Way-Nee. Ms Way-Nee provided research from the board’s website that showed PCVS is the least accessible of the four schools, while Kenner is the lone school completely barrier free.

She also noted Adam Scott isn’t barrier free because it’s main entrance is only accessible by stairs, while TAS third floor is not accessible.
“I was mainly shocked to find, when having to pull from the accessibility plans from the board since 2003, that no money has never been put into PCVS,”
explained Ms Way-Nee.

“Anybody can look at PCVS and know that there’s no access and you don’t need to wait for a student (with disabilities) to apply and think that you can
get it fixed by September.”

Jay Amer taddressed the committee next and quickly states that the PCVS Foundation would front the bill for accessibility upgrades, if it meant keeping
the downtown school open.

“If financing an elevator and any other accessibility infrastructure is barrier to allow PCVS to remain open, the Foundation is committee to secure that
funding to support the board to make PCVS accessible to all,” explained Amer, president of the PCVS Foundation.

“We have secured estimates that PCVS could be made as accessible as any other high school for about $200,000 to $300,000. Even if it is two or three times that, it is affordable for our Foundation and our resources. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to assists the board with this matter. We want to
get that off the table.”

According to Ms Way-Nee, the board has the responsibility to follow the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which was formulized in 2005.

The act has five standards that have to be met by 2025.

“It is a long term process and I will be in wheelchair by than,” joked Ms. Way-Neee.

“You never know when your child, parent, or teacher may be temporary or permanently disabled. It is just not something we wait and see when we need to do something. We need to be proactive.”

Ms Way Nee’s presentation also revealed that no money has been spent, between 2003-2010, at PCVS to make it accessible. Board chair Diane Lloyd said she couldn’t provide specific reasons on why PCVS hasn’t received any dollars for accessibility upgrades in that time.

“There is always a list of schools that we do projects in, so maybe their school hasn’t come up yet,” she explained.

“The zeros are a little usual, and that there would be that many, but certainly PCVS would have to be brought up to standard as well. PCVS should be moving up with all the other schools. It’s not going to be kept out and completed at the end (2025).”

Ms Lloyd added that can only work with the money they are given.

“Each year we do a few more projects, and as much as we can, but they don’t give us enough money to do it all at once. We are certainly on track with our requirements.”

Reproduced from–accessibility-hot-topic-at-school-review-meeting