I am a former student of Sagonaska, which is one of Ontario’s demonstration schools. I am also a university graduate, with a BSc. Honours in Physics, and minor in mathematics. I managed to obtain my degree even though; I have two diagnosed learning disabilities.
The first being a disorder of written expression and the second being a mathematics disorder. Let me remind you I have a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics, and this is all thanks to the miracle workers at Sagonaska.
When I entered Sagonaska as a grade 9, I have a reading level of that of a grade 3, and did not know how to long divide or do basic multiplication. For the most part I was functionally illiterate in both written English and mathematics. Before Sagonaska I was in and out of special education programs in primary school and as a result of my issues I was bullied heavily. But at Sagonaska I found a home among my own. I was accepted as a peer, not a lesser for the first time in my life. The staff at Sagonaska rebuilt me as both a student and a person. I found my confidence and learned how to thrive in a world not built for people with my type disability.
When I graduated from Sagonaska at the end of grade 10, I did so with a grade 12 reading level and a solid footing in mathematics. But I also left equipped with the knowledge, ability and confidences to advocate for myself. This became very important and almost immediately upon arriving back into my home school, the hurdles become to appear. Almost all of my accommodations I needed to learn effectively with my disability, and were deemed to cause undue hardship or had limitation places upon their use of said accommodations. I also encounter educational staff that had no understanding of what a learning disability was, or any comprehension of my needs and accommodations of a person with a disability. I was even told by one teacher that I would not be capable of seceding at a university level. This just added fuel to my fire. So I sent me mind to work and fought like a cornered wolverine until graduation. Once I began university, life got much better. My needs and accommodations as a person with disabilities where taken seriously and I was able flourish.
As a result of my experiences as pre and post Sagonaska student I believe that the closure of any Ontario demonstration school would have a massive impact on education as a hole in the province of Ontario. Not only would you be effecting the students that attend these schools, you would be destroying a basis of knowledge in alternative education as well as a testing ground of knew teaching methods and techniques. The Ontario demonstration schools systems is also a great tool to educate and provide professionally development to teachers within the Ontario school system during their time spend at schools like demonstration Sagonaska. These teachers can then return to their home school borders and pass on the training and techniques learned at the Ontario demonstration schools to their peers.
In closing, it is my belief that the Ontario demonstration schools allow for the education of both teachers and students. It also allows for teachers in the stranded Ontario education system to focus on teaching and not trying to play catch up or miracle worker to a student with a disability that has fallen victim to the system. Learning disabilities rates in the prison population of North America have been found to be as high as 77%. So you can make you choice, educate or incarcerate.