Complaints about school catchment changes

Concerns that changes could erode selection of classes at Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary.

Students and parents are worried that proposed high school boundary changes could erode the selection of classes offered at Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary.

Parents and students from SRT came to the facilities open house hosted by the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District on Wednesday at Thomas Haney Secondary.

SRT was built to accommodate 600 students, but approximately 800 are there, many attending classes in a dozen portables.

Garibaldi Secondary was constructed to handle more than 1,000 students, but is under-utilized, and has a school population of about 750 students, including 125 international students.

The district proposes new boundaries to even out the two schools’ populations. With its current boundaries, SRT has a catchment that is less than a quarter the size of Garibaldi’s, but in a more densely populated area. The board presented three options for redrawn boundaries, and two of them would shrink the SRT catchment to less than half of its present size.

SRT Grade 10 student Olivia Leaf talked to school board trustees and district staff about her fears over the changing boundaries, which would come into effect in September 2016.

“I’m concerned that SRT’s current classes offered will decrease,” she said, adding that 2017 will be her grad year, and she hopes all the science and math courses she needs are still available.

She said there are situations where the school has enough students to fill one class in a subject area, but not quite enough for two classes. So some students are forced to compromise in their course selection, she explained.

“It’s definitely going to affect my sister’s classes,” she added, noting her sibling is in Grade 8.

Her mother, Teodora Leaf, said the district should be trying to expand SRT.

“Don’t we want our kids to be able to walk to school,” she asked.

“When we went to high school, we could sign up for a course and get it. Kids are taking these classes not because they want them, but because they need them [as post-secondary requirements]. It’s very discouraging.”

Members of the public were allowed to write on post-it notes and leave them on the wall next to a poster showing the redrawn boundaries.

One note from a single mother said her children were a five minute walk from SRT, but would have to catch two buses in order to get to Garibaldi if the school boundaries change.

Another post from a parent said more people would have protested the elimination of regular school bus service if they knew the school catchments were about to be redrawn.

Sabrina Mattson, a parent of SRT students, agreed that reducing the student population will affect the number of courses that can be offered, but could also impact athletic teams, extra-curricular activities and the culture of the school. She said the board should bolster the student population at Garibaldi, which already offers an International Baccalaureate program, by providing other choice programs, instead of redrawing boundaries.

School Board chair Mike Murray cautioned against the public presuming negative effects from the board’s proposed changes.

“Before we make any changes, we’ll have to see what the impacts will be,” he said. “These are not draft recommendations, these are ideas we’re considering.”

He stressed that the board will not move students from a school they are presently attending to a new school. The changes in school populations would take place slowly, over time.

“This is evolutionary, not revolutionary,” said Murray.

Other proposals resulting from the facilities review include an early French Immersion program at Maple Ridge elementary, a fine arts academy at Garibaldi, a new horticulture trades program, an expanded International Baccalaureate program and new school boundaries for Pitt Meadows elementary schools.

The board had more than 800 online responses to its survey on facilities. Fewer than 100 people attended the open house.

Wednesday’s presentation will be available on the board’s website (www.sd42.ca), and a new survey will get feedback on these more detailed proposals. It should be available by next week.

 

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