No one saw LaVérendrye decision coming


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The École LaVérendrye solution may turn out to show the absolute sheer genius of Winnipeg School Division trustees.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/05/2015 (2938 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The École LaVérendrye solution may turn out to show the absolute sheer genius of Winnipeg School Division trustees.

Emphasis on ‘may’.

We’ll have no idea for a while whether the best way to deal with overcrowding in the French milieu elementary school in Fort Rouge was to take the nursery to Grade 1 students and bus them each day to Sir William Osler School, four kilometres away in the west end of River Heights.

Logistics, not the least of which is the lack of a bus loop at Osler — wonder if the residents are calling their city councillor yet? — are largely still to be determined.

What’s really significant is that, after ages of extensive consultation and hiring of outside companies to conduct research, the trustees went completely off the board for a solution that took everyone by surprise.

It’s like posing a multiple choice question, asking someone to choose among A, B, C, or D, and then telling that person that the right answer was W.

All of this traces directly to the same phenomenal growth in French-language education which has seen school swaps and grade shifts and catchment changes in Louis Riel School Division, without the open rebellion WSD is experiencing.

Remember back in the fall when a straight-up swap of school buildings with Earl Grey School apeared to be the front-runner? Then the school board took that out of play, then put the swap back into play.

The Earl Grey parents went squirrelly. A swap would have created a day-care nightmare; Earl Grey would have lost its junior high grades, scattered among three other schools. There was a possibility that École Robert H. Smith would get sucked into it, by losing its English track and having its French immersion changed to nothing-happens-in-English French milieu.

Osler, which has been used for adult English as an additional language programming, was on the table, but only as a new French milieu elementary school for kids living west of Stafford Street.

Osler needs considerable expensive upgrading. There’s no bus loop, it needs more classrooms, it needs a much better gym.

Parents at Queenston School can tell the LaVérendrye parents how many years, even decades, it takes to get a gym. Indeed, LaVérendrye is just now finally getting a gym to replace the shoebox it’s had like totally forever. Toss in the new gym at Kelvin, and note that WSD has a new school for the Waterford Green subdivision at the top of its capital priorities list, and you have to wonder how much money the province can pour into WSD when it has an enormous list of needs from the other 36 school divisions in Manitoba.

As WSD noted in its news release Monday evening, there’ll be more changes coming to accommodate the demand for French-language education. Just because Earl Grey and Robert H. aren’t being touched now, does not mean nothing will happen a year or two down the road. And as we’ve seen and are seeing in LRSD, that demand can create a chain reaction that affects many more schools.

Nor is it just the south end — École Sacre-coeur is in more demand than it has space to handle.

I haven’t been a Robert H. parent for about 13 years now, but if I still were, I might be somewhat cynical if not downright contemptuous of any consultation process that proclaimed openness and transparency and listening to the community.

Evaluating and assessing everything, then reaching a decision that wasn’t on the table, maybe that’s the wisest way to go, but if it’s so wise, why not first put it out there to everyone affected before taking a vote?

If I were still a parent of an elementary child about to be affected by the trustees’ decision, I might be looking at what’s happened so far, and asking what the point is of hiring consultants and conducting on-line surveys and holding all-evening-long delegation meetings and spending hours and hours at town halls, if at the end of it, the trustees will ignore everything that’s gone before and pluck a decision completely out of left field.

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