Montessori, French Immersion consultation on ‘options’ meaningless

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 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 [...]

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.

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

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4 comments

  1. This is a really difficult topic because of course, we are talking about our kids’ futures. And in the end, I think no one is going to be entirely happy with the final product. Which may be the way to go since then not one group will feel as if they have been left out or ignored.

    Personally, I feel the entire district needs to be turned upside down and shaken really hard. Not only in regards to the chaos that is the high school but the way schools are distributed as well.

    I would love to see magnet schools in New West for the two programs of choice. One school for each French Immersion and Montessori with the ability to house 2 or 3 classes per grade. Most likely for a K-8 schedule after which they would transfer to NWSS. I firmly believe that to foster a true language understanding, you need to be completely immersed in the language at an elementary level.

    Personally, I get the impression that in order to satisfy the demand for French Immersion and Montessori in New Westminster, the district has plunked classes down where there was room. As demand increases, this cannot continue. I understand that for those who are attending their local schools, it will be difficult to adjust. But it has to change after being properly thought through. Which means listening to what parents have to say.

    Sorry, this ended up being a lot longer than I expected! I think I’ll send it on to the district as well.

  2. I would just like to comment on your statement: "Down the road and still in the West End, Connaught is practically empty."

    This is inaccurate. Currently, all six of our classrooms are occupied by students. It is true that once the middle school opens, we will lose one or two classrooms of students but for the time being, we are not "practically empty".

  3. Hey thanks Denise – that's not the impression I had (obviously) but thanks for the correction.

  4. I totally agree with you, Briana. I think the school board is asking us for our opinions so that they can see who would complain the loudest. They should move/change programs of choice and/or boundaries to something that works best for the community in the long run.

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