Corp Comm Connects

'Horrified and disappointed': Parents distressed by YCDSB's approval of adult classes during regular school hours
April 19, 2022

Parents are alarmed that the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) has approved adult programming at three schools, despite an overwhelming backlash to the initial proposal.

In December 2021, school board trustees approved a motion for staff to conduct a consultation with three school communities regarding a proposal to accommodate YCDSB Continuing Education programs at Father John Kelly Catholic Elementary School (CES) in Vaughan, St. Joseph CES in Richmond Hill and St. Julia Billiart CES in Markham.

The board held a public information session at all three schools, where parents provided feedback and asked questions about the proposal. The majority of the feedback disapproved of the program.

On March 29, the board voted to proceed with the program.

Amanda Gibson was among the many parents who voiced their opposition to adult learners sharing her daughters' -- aged four and seven -- school (Father John Kelly) during school hours.

But Gibson said she feels that despite the overwhelming voices of concern and disapproval from parents, the board "pushed it forwards anyways."

"I feel deeply horrified and disappointed that the YCDSB has prioritized an adult program over the safety and security of our children," Gibson said.

At the public session, York Regional Police made a presentation on anti-human trafficking and noted an increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

Approving adult programming while children are inside the school was an irresponsible act on the board's part following the YRP's presentation, Gibson said.

According to the board, "there are multiple factors behind why the board decided to approve this program during regular school hours," including using the excess space available at the three schools and providing adult learners "equitable access" to education.

The program that has been approved to operate during daytime school hours is Continuing Education, an adult program offered through the YCDSB.

Although it is board policy to ensure service providers are screened for criminal records that may place students at risk, since adult learners are "not service providers and will not have direct or regular contact with students," they are not required to be background checked, the board said.

Aside from ID badges that will be issued to staff and adult students, the board said safety measures are in place to ensure adult programming will operate separately from the rest of the school.

Interior doors between the two sections of the school will be locked and alarmed, and a separate entrance and exit will be designated for adult learners. Dedicated washrooms will also be established.

Start and end times for classes have been staggered "to mitigate possible interaction outside," the board said.

Emergency exits will also be planned accordingly to ensure adult learners and children student are separated.

However, parents feel the board failed to do its "due diligence" before approving the program and don't feel comfortable that contact between adult learners and their children is merely "alleviated" and not fully ceased.

Gibson said she would have liked to see the available space go toward children's programming.

"We want to see our community thrive, and we welcome adult learners and continuing education, just not while our children are learning in school," Gibson said. "It's a very critical distinction."

A mother of two children attending St. Julia Billiart said the board's decision has caused her to relive her childhood trauma every day after she was a victim of sexual assault due to the same kind of programming in place when she was in school.

The mother, who requested anonymity, attended a school in Toronto and said she was sexually assaulted by a man who attended classes there.

"I have all these images of him walking past me and he would smell my neck, I was disgusted ... one day he did follow me home," she said. "As a child, I never complained."

The mother has put in a transfer request for her children, as have many other parents.

"You've taken this vibrant community and really have just destroyed it," she said.