Stop-gap funding saves preschool for deaf and hard of hearing kids from closing

A Burnaby preschool for children who are deaf or hard of hearing has been saved, after the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) provided stop-gap funding to prevent its closure this week.

The program, run by the Deaf Children Society of B.C., uses American Sign Language for its instruction, making it unique in the province.

“As a parent I’m relieved to see MCFD step up and provide an interim, temporary solution to the problem that’s going on,” said Matthew Kalenuik, whose daughter attends the preschool. “I’m optimistic, or hopeful, that MCFD will come up with some longer term solutions, and there is more work that needs to be done.”

The ministry provided $750,000, but it was left to the contractor, B.C. Family Hearing Resource Society, to distribute it to Deaf Children Society of B.C. and others.

‘I don’t think by any means we’re out of the woods’

According to Lisa Meneian, executive director of Deaf Children Society of B.C., $230,000 will go to her group.

“It’s something, and we’re going to take every little step as a celebration,” said Meneian. “I don’t think by any means we’re out of the woods.”

She said the society still faces a $200,000 shortfall for next year’s budget, and while the preschool will be prioritized, other programs will have to be assessed and may see changes.

Meneian said she’s still critical of the arrangement that places her society as a subcontractor, with the B.C. government dealing with B.C. Family Hearing Resource Society rather than directly with her.

The ministry said Thursday in written statement that it recognized the exceptional pressures that families are feeling right now.

“This is one important step as we continue to work together to better understand all of the issues in serving this community,” the statement read.

The ministry said demand for services for children who are deaf and hard of hearing has grown significantly in recent years, and it’s working on a new services framework.

Meneian said she’s concerned the framework is still a long way away, and the preschool will run out of funding again before long. 

For Kalenuik, who started a petition to pressure the government to step in and save the school — and spent lots of time and energy rallying other parents — the new funding is a welcome rest, but he doesn’t expect it to last.

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