Regina Public Schools might cut communication program for youngsters

A program that has helped young children who have difficulty communicating get ready for kindergarten may lose its place in the Regina Public Schools division.

The division currently funds eight spaces in the Socialization, Communication and Education Program (SCEP), which helps preschool-age children who have difficulty with language, be it comprehension or speech.

However, cuts announced by the division to deal with funding shortfalls stemming from the provincial budget would impact those spaces.

"Their funding from tuition will go from eight spaces down to six next year, and the year after it will end," Pat Clark, executive director of SCEP, told CBC Radio's Morning Edition on Thursday.

Later that morning, Education Minister Don Morgan said the province wouldn't approve a budget from the school division that cuts preschool programming for children with special needs.

If the cuts were to happen, Clark said it would impact children who have been difficult to manage in other programs.

The key, Clark said, is that SCEP has a lot of staff able to assist children as they learn, and intervene if they try to act out due to their frustration with communicating.

Children come four or five times a week and are placed in small groups where staff members interact with, play with and teach them.

"A lot of the emphasis is on language and communication, but also [to] teach them how to interact with other kids," Clark said.

Clark hadn't had a chance to speak with all of the parents of children involved in the program by the time she spoke with the Morning Edition, but she said those she had heard from were very concerned.

The education minister told reporters that discussions are already underway to help the school division "find it within their budget" to keep the programs.