Katie Clunn’s daughter Danika, who will be going into Grade 6 this year, and her son Wesley, who will be going into Grade 3. (Katie Clunn/Special to The News)

Maple Ridge mother wants province to hold spots for students in choice programs

Katie Clunn started a petition for families wishing to home school children during COVID pandemic

A Maple Ridge mother is worried her children will lose their spots in the district’s French immersion program because she doesn’t want to send them back to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katie Clunn would like to home school her children instead.

However, in order to enroll her children in a supporter home school group, she said, they will need to be removed from their current school placement.

This means that choice programs with waiting lists like French immersion, Montessori and Environmental School will open up their spots to those next in line.

Clunn has started a petition to ask the B.C. government to hold places for students who will not be returning to class for the upcoming school year. She would also like to see the formation of a French immersion home school program.

“My daughter is going into Grade 6, so she’s got six years of French immersion under her belt already. To be suddenly giving it up because of a pandemic, that’s so unfair. She’s worked so hard,” said Clunn, whose son will be going into Grade 3 in French immersion.

There is a distance learning program called Odyssey available for students in the school district, but Clunn says, the program is already full.

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Clunn was able to get her children into a private home schooling group only after emailing about 15 others. Half of them were already full, she said.

And, to keep her children up to speed with the French curriculum, Clunn estimates, it is going to cost her around $800 to $1,000 a month.

Clunn said she was was informed by the school district to expect more details about their plans for the school year on Aug. 26.

However, if she likes the plan it will now cost her $200 per child to withdraw from the private program she enrolled them in.

This is also a big concern for Chris Schultz-Lorentzen, a member of the District Parent Advisory Council executive.

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Schultz-Lorentzen wants to see spots saved for students who choose not to physically return to the classroom – for the next school year, at least.

“To take those families out of their school just because, for whatever reason, they can’t physically attend school for their family’s sake, takes them out of that school community,” explained Schultz-Lorentzen.

“That’s really what we want to avoid,” he said.

The council is hoping that stipulations or requirements can be made for those families.

“So that every effort is made not to take their children out of their catchment school registration,” said Schultz-Lorentzen.

Irena Pochop with School District 42 said the district is aware that families have many questions and that they are committed to providing answers in, “as timely a fashion as possible”.

“We appreciate their patience as we do the necessary planning,” noted Pochop adding that Superintendent Sylvia Russell will be sending out a letter to families on Wednesday, Aug. 19, that will address questions around district programs, “that may provide some flexibility”.

Clunn’s petition, so far, has 970 signatures. She would like to get to 1,000 to send to the B.C. Education Minister, Rob Flemming.

She is also asking parents to email their MLA and the superintendent of the school district.

“These children have put years of work into learning a second language and should not be punished because they are uncomfortable with current events,” wrote Clunn online.

Clunn is ultimately concerned that if her children and others lose their spots at their catchment schools then, when they are ready to return, they will be put in new classrooms and maybe even a new school.

“The experts are all stressing the importance of our children’s mental health,” Clunn also wrote.

“The above will all impact them greatly.”



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