Thursday, December 23, 2010

School for disabled children in Trinidad-Tobago faces closure

From Newsday in Trinidad-Tobago:

Although the Education Ministry has taken an interest in its plight, things are still very uncertain for the Agape Community College at Pro Queen Street, Arima.

The privately run school for children with Autism and Down syndrome has appealed via media for financial help as it owes $100,000 in rent.

The tuition per term of $1,200 is beyond the reach of some parents and the school has fallen behind on its $10,000/month rent.

The school has to re-register with government to receive state assistance and has to do renovations of the building it occupies. Approximately 130 students attend the school.

Speaking with Newsday recently, director of the school Larry LaCroix said officials of the ministry visited the school last Tuesday and enquired about the concerns raised by the school.

Since then there has been no word on any forthcoming assistance.

The Education Ministry issued a statement, which said it was cognisant of the needs of children enrolled at the school and wished to assure parents and guardians that the children were the ministry’s “first priority.”

La Croix explained that the school was registered with the government and began receiving assistance about two years ago when it occupied a building at Cocorite Street, Arima. The school was paying a monthly rent of $3,000 and assistance from government came after upgrades were done on the building.

However, notice was subsequently served on the school and it was given one year to find another place.

According to La Croix, the rent at the previous building was $3,000 but at the new location it is $10,000.

He said the cost of rent became a “major factor” in the school’s financial predicament.

LaCroix and his wife, principal of the school Joan LaCroix have been using their own savings to keep the school going but cannot continue doing this.

They owe teachers their salaries and they are anxiously looking forward to assistance from the ministry.