Trustees OK building swap in catchment changes
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This article was published 09/06/2022 (234 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Despite public outcry about catchment changes in the Louis Riel School Division, trustees have approved adjustments that will have wide-reaching effects — including a building swap between an English and French high school — in southeast Winnipeg.
The board of trustees voted Tuesday on a multifaceted proposal that aims to address the growing community of Sage Creek and demand for French immersion both in the suburb and across LRSD. The sweeping changes were approved, with five trustees in favour of the motions and three against them.
A notice published on the division’s website states the “pragmatic solutions” were compared with several alternatives and deemed to be “the most sustainable, achievable, affordable, least disruptive and well-researched.”
“We’ve been facing enrolment pressures and changing demographic patterns in the southeast quadrant of the division for some time… Change is never easy, but we are committed to continue working alongside our community to ensure the voices of students, staff and families are heard and that their needs are met,” wrote Louise Johnston, chairwoman of the board, in a statement Wednesday.
LRSD prides itself on providing single-track programs so learners studying French are fully immersed in the language at school. Leaders made an exception in Sage Creek, which currently has a dual-track elementary school, as they await construction on a second school in the new suburb.
Overcrowding has been an issue at the facility on 315 Sage Creek Blvd. since it opened. As a result, programming has changed on more than one occasion and some young pupils are bused out of their growing neighbourhood to attend classes.
Windsor Park Collegiate and Collège Béliveau have been offering instruction to Sage Creek students enrolled in grades 7 and up to address enrolment pressures.
Starting in 2022-23, however, incoming English middle-years students from the area will attend Shamrock School instead of WPC until another elementary building opens in Sage Creek and there can be two single-track facilities offering K-8.
Catchment areas for both WPC and J.H. Bruns Collegiate are changing so Sage Creek graduates of Shamrock — and later, the yet-to-open school in their suburb — will attend the latter for high school as early as September 2024.
The blueprint also involves moving WPC students into Collège Béliveau, a smaller French immersion building located around the corner, and vice versa in 2024-25.
“They are manufacturing an enrolment decline to rationalize a building swap. We have been the English high school for Sage Creek since Day 1. Why would we change that now? It makes no sense,” said Ina Prokipchuk, a member of WPC’s class of 1986 and parent at the high school.
As far as Prokipchuk is concerned, LRSD is handing WPC “a bag of lemons.”
The contentious swap proposal prompted Prokipchuk’s son to organize a walkout May 16, during which students decried the consequences of the move. The students alleged LRSD is giving their French immersion peers preferential treatment because their school is located in a larger facility with more amenities and specialty programs.
Grade 12 student Michael Prokipchuk said he and his peers were feeling “defeated” Wednesday.
The student leadership council executive said learners feel they were not properly consulted on plans that could impact the quality of educational programming and their extracurriculars, including competitive sports teams.
“It’s not a done deal… I don’t think this is truly over until a government writes a cheque to the division,” he said, noting the plan relies on the province approving funding for an addition to J.H. Bruns so it can accommodate an enrolment spike.
In recent weeks, English program parents have raised questions about limited consultation on the blueprint and the division prioritizing single-track schools if the unique policy is slated to cause mass disruption and result in costly construction projects.
The blueprint has unfortunately created “a culture of divisiveness” between English and French families, said Dave McAvoy, a father of two young school-aged children in Windsor Park.
“Whether indirectly or not, there seems to be a greater spotlight and desire to focus on the French immersion population,” McAvoy said, adding he wants LRSD to consider how dual-track high schools could benefit all learners.
The father of English students said he has been disappointed trustees appear to be backing LRSD leaders rather than families — especially given residents successfully advocated last year for the scrapping of Bill 64 — the now-defunct Education Modernizaton Act, which would have eliminated elected boards.