Cheraw Chronicle

Complete News World

Katrinahof, special education school wants to expand: "We could be twice as many with all the children on the waiting list" (Antwerp)

Katrinahof, special education school wants to expand: “We could be twice as many with all the children on the waiting list” (Antwerp)

The Katrinauf Entrance (with the white gate) in Van Schönbeckstrat. © Dirk Christense

Antwerp / Perchem

Katrinauf, a special education teacher, is looking for a new location in Antwerp. The school wants to expand to compensate for the severe shortage of capacity. Last year a chance arose at the Mariahof site in Berchem, but due to the arrival of office space and homes, there was not enough space left for the school.

Jan Stasigens

In Flanders, and especially in the city of Antwerp, there is an acute shortage of places for private education. A month into the 2021-2022 school year, hundreds of children with intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorders were still unable to secure a place in a modified school. Even with the registration period for the next school year, it is already certain that the places available will not be enough and that dozens and hundreds of children will end up on the waiting list.

Katerinauf

Both the Flemish government and the city of Antwerp are trying to achieve additional capacity where possible. Temporary if necessary, permanent if possible. But these efforts are not enough. Space for the construction of new and air-conditioned school buildings is limited, particularly in the city. Saskia Vanderiken, director of primary education at Katrinahof, a special education school, understands this, too. At Van Schoonbekestraat and Peter Benoitstraat, not far from Harmonie Park, the school together houses about 200 type II students and children and youth with intellectual disabilities. 94 students at the secondary level and 110 at the primary level. “We could be twice as big if we could make a place for all the kids on the waiting list,” Vandereyken says. “But here we don’t have room to expand.”

Saskia Vandereken, Director of Primary Education at Katrinahof.

Saskia Vandereken, Director of Primary Education at Katrinahof. © Jan Stasigens

And so Katerinauf has been looking for a new location for a long time to be able to realize those much-needed additional places. Last year they thought they had found a solution at the Uitbreidingstraat in Berchem. Antwerp Care is in place to redevelop the site of an existing residential care center in Sint-Maria. There will also be room for a new building for Katrinahof. Discussions about this have continued between the city, the health care company and the school since last year.

offices

But that opportunity appears to have vanished after less than a year. Originally there was talk of 6000 square meters for Katrinahof, until the school board was told in December that only 3,500 square meters would be available. The new building must accommodate offices and homes at the expense of the school. “It thus becomes too small to accommodate our entire school and provide additional capacity. The goal was to create thirty more places for both secondary and primary schools. Our children and youth really need that space. It is financially unviable for us to move only part of the school and maintain two buildings in the same time.Moreover, we want to provide a warm nest for our children and youth. It is a pity that offices take over education, especially with the huge shortage of places. There will be another conversation soon. We hope that a new engagement is possible.†

In addition to the Sint-Maria Residential Care Center, there will be room for a school, offices and homes.

In addition to the Sint-Maria Residential Care Center, there will be room for a school, offices and homes. © rr

There is no rush per se. Katerinaov does not have to leave at the current location. “But the capacity shortfall is acute,” Vandereyken says. “And we want to take responsibility for ensuring that children with high care needs are helped.”

See also  There is no evidence that eating bananas in the afternoon is healthier than eating them in the evening

Antwerp Aldermann Education, Genet Beals (Vorwett) does not want to comment on Katrinahof’s situation. Alderman Els Van Doesburg (N-VA), who is also the healthcare company’s chairman, refers us to Johan Demuynck, CEO of the Healthcare Company, for a response. He denies that there was talk of Katrinahof for 6000 square metres. “We’ve never really defined that surface area,” says de Moynck. “We have always pushed 3,500 square meters forward. We are certainly not against Katrinanov’s arrival, but first we must build a new residential care center and renovate the existing historic building. Only then will we know how much space is left for the school. And that will only be in five to eight years’ time. Closest estimate.