Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has placed a moratorium on out-of-catchment placements at elementary schools. FILE PHOTO

Nanaimo school district stops out-of-catchment placements for elementary students

Decision not to accommodate out-of-catchment requests not taken lightly, superintendent says

Nanaimo school district has temporarily suspended requests for out-of-catchment placements at elementary schools.

Superintendent John Blain informed parents in a letter this week of a district decision to place a moratorium on requests to attend elementary school outside of students’ catchment boundaries this upcoming school year.

While secondary schools are not affected, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has previously warned all families it may not be able to accommodate out-of-catchment or academy applicants as it has in the past because of class-size and composition requirements and higher enrolment.

With the moratorium, it’s a little clearer with existing out-of-catchment applications that there’s no opportunity at this point for them to be fulfilled for the school year, according to Dale Burgos, district spokesman, who said the district wants to make sure room in schools is reserved for in-catchment students.

He and Blain have both said the decision was not taken lightly.

It affects about 200 students who applied for out-of-catchment placements in elementary schools.

“The district realizes that this may affect a small number of families across the district. However, the focus continues to be that we maintain space for all in-catchment students in their school community,” Blain stated in the letter.

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Kelsey Thomas and other parents previously told the News Bulletin they’d been informed siblings would have a spot at Departure Bay Eco School when they enrolled their eldest children in 2016, but had been unsure if their younger children would get in after the school district stated it may not be able to accommodate out-of-catchment applications as it has in the past.

Thomas said she was “pretty devastated” for her older son when she received the district’s latest letter, because it hammered home that he’s going to have to leave his friends.

“We talked about it as a family and that’s kind of what will be doing,” said Thomas, who doesn’t believe her younger son will get a spot in kindergarten at the school, and with a third child coming up behind him, the decision was made to keep the siblings together.

“It was really hard, my son who is in Grade 1 told his teacher this morning that he most likely will not be returning to Departure Bay and his teacher, who he’s very attached to, him and her both had a very good cry.”

Thomas said shutting down schools was a “pretty silly idea.” Rutherford was closed this year and now every other school is being over-filled, she said.

“I think they put themselves in a really bad situation and somebody made a mistake and I feel like they are not even acknowledging how they marketed Departure Bay to us,” she said.

Jennifer Smith, a parent who also has an out-of-catchment child at the eco school and another ready for kindergarten, decided to keep her children together by enrolling them at their in-catchment school this year and go on a wait-list for Departure Bay.

When she contacted the district registration desk about two weeks ago, she said she was told she could go on three wait-list for out-of-catchment schools. To then get a letter saying the district has changed its mind and there’s no out-of-catchment option at all, she said she’s feeling “screwed up, thrown around, beaten up a little bit.”

“There’s a lot of policy changes going on that are affecting us and it’s just frustrating to try to make decisions as a family when the school [district] keeps changing their mind,” she said.

Rutherford school parent Greg Keller said the moratorium is counter to the message used to close Rutherford, which was declining enrolment and a structural deficit, but he’s not surprised by it. The district knew from its facilities plan that elementary school enrolment was reaching capacity in the next few years, he said.

“In my mind it’s an indication that the projections are correct and that we are expected to reach full capacity within the next few years and that we need to revisit our facilities plan and need to start thinking ahead in terms of how we’re going to accommodate the increasing enrolment,” he said.

The school district will review school capacity and space over the summer, with further information provided in September, according to the letter, which reminds parents to have their children attend catchment schools until notified otherwise.


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