Two school communities will be moving lock, stock and barrel in opposite directions across a shared field for the start of the next school year.
In response to the increasing demand for French immersion places in the Pulberry area, which is outpacing the demand for English program spots, the Louis Riel School Board has sanctioned a recommendation by senior administration for Hastings School (K to 8 English program) and École Marie-Anne Gaboury (K to 8 French immersion) to switch buildings to better accommodate their respective populations.
The move was approved by trustees at a public board meeting on April 22 and will be effective Sept. 2, 2014.
Officials say the recommendation followed a series of government, community and parent consultations and the swap is intended to address the continued projected growth at Gaboury, which introduced a portable classroom last fall. According to an April 23 news release, Hastings is currently at 48 per cent capacity, while Gaboury currently sits at 105 per cent.
At the recent meeting, LRSD superintendent Duane Brothers told The Lance the proposed switch is the most sustainable, financially feasible and least disruptive of the potential solutions that were analyzed.
"This is absolutely the least disruptive option, as any of the other solutions would impact three, four, five school communities. This solution — even though it has upset some people, and we understand that — in the end, results in people crossing a field.
"We believe, with some change and work with both school communities; we can make both schools even better," Brothers added.
He said Gaboury students no longer have access to a band room due to the school’s growth, while Hastings students will be leaving behind a community kitchen program.
"If it makes sense to the staff and parent communities to look at such things, then absolutely we can. There are also concerns about traffic, as a lot more parents are driving their kids to school more than ever before. We need to look at ideas such as different drop off points or having staff members positioned at checkpoints, rather than have parents worrying their kids are not safe."
In terms of potential legal recourse, Brothers said LRSD has carried out its "obligation to provide high quality education for each and every student in the division" and performed its due diligence with the various levels of government.
A transition plan involving both schools was set to start on April 23.
Having previously spoken to The Lance on behalf of the Hastings Parent Advisory Council about his concerns regarding the switch, parent John Whiting was not immediately available for comment after the meeting.
For more information, visit www.lrsd.net