They filled the gallery, stood in the lobby, and crowded around the table of school trustees.
Parents came out in full force to Tuesday night’s school board meeting, hoping for answers to their questions regarding a proposed boundary change.
“This is cozy,” quipped board chair Paul McManus at the outset of the meeting, almost entirely dedicated to both issues. It also happened to be the first meeting to be publicly viewed as a livestream on YouTube. The video of the two-hour meeting is still available online, and had received more than 300 views as of Wednesday afternoon.
Superintendent Evelyn Novak kicked off the meeting with an overview of the history of the reconfiguration decision. The decision to move to a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade model is meant to help Grade 6 students achieve new curriculum goals, and adopt a new middle school model in the entire district.
Grade 9s, she added, will have more learning opportunities by moving into the high school system one year sooner.
That led to redefining the boundaries, she explained, “in order to ensure we had spaces in our middle and secondary schools.”
Novak said they’ve been listening to the feedback from parents as it’s come in over the last week. In addition to Late French Immersion parents and students voicing concern over proposed changes, many other parents are concerned about safety issues with potentially longer walk distances, traffic congestion, and a lack of connection to their school.
That led the district to create two new options for the proposed boundary changes.
“We’ve had some really great responses from the community,” Novak said. They’ve had more than 200 phone calls and emails since the first option was released.
She said there are trends in data from the feedback, which will be reviewed by the district and the board. The board will meet back again on Nov. 7 and will be provided with options to make a final decision.
“We’ve had some good variations around tweaking of the models,” she said, regarding catchment changes. The district had hoped to keep middle school “cohorts” together right through high school, but many of the families who have contacted the board weren’t supportive of their proposed path.
Many of the families are concerned students will be making too many changes over the next few years, particularly those in grades 5 and 6. Numerous parents took advantage of another new feature of board meetings, question-and-answer periods that replace the prior system of public participation.
Trustee Bob Patterson pointed out that there has been a committee in place for the last year-and-a-half to help make the transitions easier on the students.
The reconfiguration will help alleviate some of the congestion in elementary schools, she confirmed, but wasn’t the only reason for the change.
To see the three options proposed, visit the district’s website at www.sd33.bc.ca.
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