Letters

LETTERS: Two sides of Trafalgar debate

Nelson’s Trafalgar middle school has been at the centre of a heated debate. - Nelson Star file photo
Nelson’s Trafalgar middle school has been at the centre of a heated debate.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

We were disappointed to read Kirsten Hildebrand’s opinion piece regarding Redfish PAC and our initiation of a dialogue regarding a possible grade reconfiguration of the Nelson family of schools.

Hildebrand used language and a tone that does not belong in a serious debate regarding the future of our children, even in an opinion piece. Suggesting Redfish parents “haven’t let go of concerns” from the previous reconfiguration is rather inaccurate and inflammatory.

We are a new set of parents with our own concerns. If they happen to coincide with previous concerns, this suggests a continuing validity rather than an inability to move on. For example, a brief visit to Trafalgar would confirm this. One might say it is in “desperate need of repair or better yet, replacement.” During the previous reconfiguration of creating feeder schools and amending Trafalgar to Grades 6 to 8, the Trafalgar building was meant to eventually undergo complete renovation. Clearly this has not occurred and this is why our concerns remain justified.

Our concerns also come from numerous families that currently have children in Trafalgar and have had children pass through Trafalgar in the last few years.  For example, field trips to Ainsworth with no permission slips (since dealt with by the administration after we brought it to their attention), lack of parental contact regarding absenteeism and so forth. This is not playground gossip: these are clear instances of lack of age-appropriate supervision.

From the article it seems Hildebrand’s ideas on transitions are based on a singular personal experience. (If, as an 18-year-old, Hildebrand had trouble with transitions, why would you expect a 10-year-old to do so successfully? While we do not believe in coddling, some lessons do not need to be taught so harshly). Our concerns are based on a collection of experiences and, more importantly, quality research in the field of child development. The general consensus amongst these studies point to minimizing transitions as being in the best interest of children. We could furnish Hildebrand with more information on this field, if she wishes to be able to provide a more informed opinion.

We are concerned, not “alarmed,” at the apparent lack of restriction of devices in classrooms. While we agree this is a societal issue (I don’t think we need to define instruments that bring about social change as ‘problems’. Such language engenders reactionary attitudes that may resist necessary social adaptation), Trafalgar does indeed need to “bare the brunt” (sic) of the problem while our children are in their care. If we are to “insist these devices stay in lockers,” then who is to police this other than the school itself?

Hildebrand states her experience of progressing through grades in a single school was that “the school environment had a family-like atmosphere, allowed for one-on-one learning and provided a stable educational experience.” I’m not sure why she seems to be arguing against providing similar positive experiences for our children, or at least the closest possible analogue. This is the aim for the Redfish PAC, and other PACs in the district: cultivating a supportive and welcoming environment for our children (as young as 10-years-old) whom are making this transition.  This is essential since they will navigate numerous future transitions based on their success in these early transitions.

Ms Hildebrand may be quick to dismiss us as “worriers” over urban myths but, with a little effort, she may be aware that we are already acting to try and address the concerns we have. She may have been aware that we met with Trafalgar administration to discuss the lack of contact with parents when a child does not arrive at school. This is a safety concern we will not “let go.” We do not feel comfortable with a six -or more- hour window in which a child can go missing with no one being aware.

The result of this is Redfish PAC lobbying the school board to provide administrative hours to put such procedures in place. We have also offered our time to help set up a cohesive database of contact emails in order to provide a streamlined system on the off chance that the board cannot or will not provide more resources.

While we believe reconfiguration is in the best interest of our children, this does not prevent us from doing what we can to assist the new Trafalgar administration in giving our children the most positive experience we can provide.

 

Simon Beresford

Redfish PAC

 

Positive developments at the school

 

Re: “Redfish parents want students back from Nelson’s Trafalgar”

Many positive developments are happening at the school, and the public may not be aware of all the changes happening at Trafalgar. I first wanted to address some of the concerns.

The story  reported that there are unaccounted for student absences, although that has not been my own experience. Most times my son has been absent, an admin staff has always followed up with a phone call if I had not informed the school.

The teachers contact parents if their student is absent for up to three classes without an excused absence. Trafalgar encourages parents to call the Office if their child will be absent. The email home program is not a supported option as Trafalgar will be moving to a different Student Information System in the near future. Otherwise, the administration will either contact students directly and/or send an email or make a phone call home to those parents whose students have irregular absenteeism or are frequently late. Trafalgar does not have the clerical/secretarial resources to phone each custodial parent/guardian for every child that is absent that day; however, we are looking into viable alternatives.

Students on field trips are all required to have permission slips, and teachers at Trafalgar supervising are routinely diligent in having these filled in correctly.

The inappropriate digital content issue was due to lack of appropriate privacy settings on the app; this problem was widespread beyond the school to any user of the messaging application. Trafalgar is working to inform students and parents about appropriate social media use through parent evenings, grade level assemblies, and in Digital Literacy class. Internet content is filtered through our provincial service provider, PLNet.

Supervision at lunch hour has been addressed with noon hour designated zones; they have helped keep Trafalgar safe and clean at lunch, while remaining flexible enough for our students to enjoy Movie at Lunch, board games, quiet rooms, and homework support in classrooms.

No question, the building is old, and a replacement would be welcome, but there are no environmental or water quality concerns with the building.

Air quality has been tested several times and there are no concerns. The Trafalgar PAC recently purchased three new water fountains that additionally filter the water, and allow students to easily refill water bottles. In addition the current Trafalgar PAC has made school replacement their biggest long term priority.

Now for some of the positive developments at the school.

There is the FRIENDS program is a 10 to 12 week classroom-based, anxiety prevention and resiliency program, delivered by teachers — Trafalgar is the only school in the district where every teacher in the school is implementing the program.

Trafalgar has a widely successful French Immersion program with nearly 170 students.

Under guidance by principal Carol-Ann Leidloff, and vice principal Tamara Malloff, Trafalgar students now have a community based program, Lifelong Explorations.

Trafalgar has an array of additional programs and events for students, with much of it managed by teachers volunteering their time — sports groups, drama, photography, robotics, etc.

I feel that Trafalgar has had an image problem — but that really is the past. My son has attended French immersion for three years, becoming involved in many extracurricular school activities. Most importantly though, he has blossomed to become a confident, socially aware and responsible young man due in large part due to the teachers and staff at Trafalgar.

According to the Trafalgar vice principal Tamara Malloff, “We are open to suggestions and dialogue on how to make our school a better place for our learners, and encourage parents to contact us directly, or work through our Trafalgar PAC to support their children.”

Andrew Jones

Trafalgar PAC

Nelson

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