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WSD chairman spurns idea of school swap

French program running out of classroom space

Earl Grey School

Earl Grey School

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/11/2014 (1705 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Fort Rouge parents and students could be in for a repeat performance of the recent ruckus in St. Vital over trading schools.

Winnipeg School Division's newly elected board chairman, Mark Wasyliw, vowed trustees would do everything possible to find some other way to deal with enormous growth in French-language education without resorting to a straightforward trade of École LaVérendrye and Earl Grey School.

Yet, that may be the most obvious solution, just as Louis Riel School Division trustees eventually concluded that trading Hastings School and École Marie-Anne-Gaboury solved similar problems.

That St. Vital trade, which concluded with kids trading schools this fall, infuriated many parents.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/11/2014 (1705 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Fort Rouge parents and students could be in for a repeat performance of the recent ruckus in St. Vital over trading schools.

Winnipeg School Division's newly elected board chairman, Mark Wasyliw, vowed trustees would do everything possible to find some other way to deal with enormous growth in French-language education without resorting to a straightforward trade of École LaVérendrye and Earl Grey School.

Yet, that may be the most obvious solution, just as Louis Riel School Division trustees eventually concluded that trading Hastings School and École Marie-Anne-Gaboury solved similar problems.

That St. Vital trade, which concluded with kids trading schools this fall, infuriated many parents.

"We don't want that," Wasyliw said in an interview.

When he was campaigning for re-election last month, Wasyliw got the message at the door from a multitude of parents at LaVérendrye and Earl Grey: "The parents didn't want the schools swapped," he said.

'We definitely wouldn't support the straight trading of schools'

"We definitely wouldn't support the straight trading of schools," said Earl Grey School parent-council president Darryl Balasko.

Blame — or credit — parents' enthusiasm for enrolling their kids in French immersion and French milieu.

LaVérendrye offers French milieu — everything, including public address announcements and gym class is in French.

LaVérendrye's enrolment has doubled in the last eight years. When the province completely implements its cap of 20 students for kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms in the fall of 2017, LaVérendrye will have room for only 300 children.

"It's a school with a (looming) capacity of 300 and it's now at 360," Wasyliw said. "We anticipate further growth."

LaVérendrye has a portable this year, and construction is starting on a long-awaited new gymnasium and two additional classrooms.

That won't be enough for the nursery to Grade 6 school.

Enrolment at École LaVérendrye (above) has outgrown the school's space, while nearby Earl Grey School has only 220 students with space for 600.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Enrolment at École LaVérendrye (above) has outgrown the school's space, while nearby Earl Grey School has only 220 students with space for 600.

Earl Grey is a nursery to Grade 8 school six blocks away with about 220 kids in an almost 100-year-old building big enough to accommodate 600 children.

"Earl Grey is a much larger school and it's not full," Wasyliw said.

One way to avoid trading one school building for another would be to move one or more grades from LaVérendrye to Earl Grey, said Wasyliw.

"The parents weren't impressed with that," said Stacey Huard-Bernuy, president of the LaVérendrye parent council. They'd be in an English-language environment, with lots of logistical headaches for parents who have kids in both schools, she said.

"We're totally overcrowded. They had to add a portable, and the library doubles as a music room," said Huard-Bernuy.

Parents are split on trading buildings, she said, but some are willing to look at Earl Grey: "They do have the room — that one would be a possibility."

So far, WSD's consultants have only talked to LaVérendrye, Balasko said.

"They've only spoken to us through the principal. There's this idea we're second class," he said. "It's just the familiarity parents have — everyone has a different reason for choosing a school."

Balasko said Earl Grey is about to celebrate its 100th year, and parents raised $110,000 for front grounds improvements. Earl Grey has a larger gym with a new gym floor. "There's a lot of tradition in the neighbourhood," he said.

Wasyliw said redrawing catchment areas to create a chain reaction is another possibility to shift kids around among schools.

"There's reopening (Sir) William Osler as French immersion — William Osler is realistically in the mix," he said.

Unlike Earl Grey, which is on Cockburn Street just south of Corydon Avenue, and LaVérendrye, on Lilac Street south of Corydon, Sir William Osler School is four kilometres away and in heavy traffic on Grant Avenue. Nevertheless, it's the closest facility with considerable available classroom space, currently used to educate adults in English as an additional language courses. Those adults generally bus to Osler and could adapt more readily elsewhere in the division than children can.

Osler has 10 classrooms. With the provincial rules on class size, Osler would be able to handle around 225 elementary age children.

Wasyliw said dates have not yet been set for further community consultation.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 12:14 PM CST: Corrects spelling of école.

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