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Stories from the Front Line

Lethbridge Budget restrictions are hammering education in Southern Alberta say education support workers Bryan Firth and June Vastenhout. Both Firth and Vastenhout are scheduled to make presentations to Albertas Commission on Learning in Lethbridge today.

Vastenhout is a teaching assistant with the Livingstone Range School District #68 and Firth is a caretaker at the Agnes School Division in Lethbridge. Both are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and have spent the last several weeks collecting information from support staff in the area to compile an analysis of the current situation in schools in the area and the impact on student achievement.

Caretaking, cleaning and maintenance work are too often taken for granted or considered separate from discussion of quality education. This is a serious mistake. If we want to talk about the quality of learning environments, the school environment is key, says Firth.

In his presentation to Albertas Learning Commission Firth points out that, as a result of cutbacks, there are serious health issues in the school including mould and dust.

Vastenhout, who provides support for students with special needs at Crowsnest Consolidated Public School, agrees cutbacks have created huge problems beyond teachers and curriculum.

Teacher assistants provide a wide range of different types of support including one on one support to students with learning disabilities, behaviour problems and physical disabilities. Time is required to plan and implement programs but cutbacks in hours have sacrificed the necessary time. Students are seriously affected by these restrictions and limitations, says Vastenhout.

Both Firth and Vastenhout tell their stories to the Commission members at 12:30 today at the Alberta Commission on Learning Public Consultation, Lethbridge Community College, Residence Hall, 3000 College Drive S.

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