The school district is currently gathering feedback on a series of “options” for where to locate New Westminster’s programs of choice (French Immersion and Montessori). The deadline is tomorrow, and I haven’t yet written in my opinion because I’m not sure what good it will do.
The author of the report, Sandra Pace, has been very careful to say “I’m not making recommendations, I’m just presenting options.” Yet based on the information I saw at the Tweedsmuir presentation of Pace’s report, there are good reasons why this review is going on. It is dishonest for the district to ask parents to comment on all these “options” as though they are all equally viable.
The locations of the programs of choice impacts the district’s efforts to balance enrolment at our schools. For example, Tweedsmuir, a “triple-track” school with Montessori, French Immersion and a “regular’ program, is overpopulated and surrounded by portables. Down the road and still in the West End, Connaught is practically empty. An easy way to solve the discrepancy on paper is to move one of the programs of choice from Tweeds (almost certainly Montessori) over to Connaught, and presto! Connaught gets a boost in enrolment and some of the pressure is off Tweeds.
But talk to the Montessori and EFI parents at Tweeds, not to mention those of us with preschool kids who chose this neighbourhood in part because Tweedsmuir is a triple track school, and it’s clear many if not most Tweedsmuir parents would not support moving Montessori to Connaught. The same follows for other schools in the district. No one wants to see kids uprooted from their school.
The district admits that most parents say they don’t want to see programs moved from their current schools. Does the district really think that parents would choose fewer options for their kids at the schools they attend? And if they know what we’re going to say, why are they asking us to bother sending in feedback forms?
Just be honest about it: if we need to move programs of choice, so provide us with the recommended options and tell us why. If we don’t need to, then why raise it at all?
It’s a waste of time to ask parents to reiterate what you already know: we don’t want the schools who have these programs now to lose them. If you think they should be moved, make the case for it. Give us real choices, not fairytale “options” that you can’t really consider given the budget and space constraints in this district. For the feedback to be meaningful, parents must be aware of the district-wide repercussions of these decisions.
Perhaps the idea is that this public consultation will offer some measure of transparency in the process of moving programs of choice, but I have trouble seeing how this feedback process will do anything other than inform trustees which schools’ parents will protest most loudly about these changes. And that’s a cowardly way to make hard choices.