School district cracks down on out-of-catchment students

There may be little choice for where some students can enroll in district schools this September.

There may be little choice for where some students can enroll in district schools this September.

Following the closure of two elementary schools and the consequent reconfiguration this year, there are currently more students than some schools can accommodate. Proposed changes are being addressed and superintendent Greg Smyth hopes the early conversations will help ease anxiety.

“The proposed changes relate to John Howitt and Wood (elementary schools),” Smyth said. “At John Howitt, it is an issue of having more students than the school can accommodate.”

He said that when the school changes to a K-7 for the 2016-17 year, there will be less space for the out-of-catchment students.

“We are looking at enrolment projections,” Smyth said. “While we try to confirm those projections, we are having conversations with the school community. If there is not enough room, we will identify a process for out-of-catchment students to determine which families stay and which will return to their catchment schools.”

To help the process, minor amendments were made to SD70 Policy 500, a policy which determines student admissions and schools of choice. The only changes made were to clarify the process. He said that although this is a long-standing process on how to determine student enrolment, the board is in position this year to apply the policy.

About 20 parents of attended the board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 12 to express concern.

“We understand that they are experiencing some anxiety about potential changes and are concerned about not being able to attend their school of choice,” Smyth said.

“Some parents are surprised that their kids aren’t automatically grandfathered to the schools but the catchment area families have the first priority. That has always been the case.”

Smyth attended the Wood Elementary PAC meeting on Wednesday and will meet with the John Howitt PAC this Tuesday, Jan. 19 for open conversation.

A boundary change in South Port will see some students from Maquinna and Wood elementary schools shift to E.J. Dunn this September.

“Wood will shrink quite significantly and Maquinna a little,” he said. “If every student said they wanted to (continue to) go to Wood, we wouldn’t be able to accommodate them all.”

y the end of February, Smyth expects to confirm enrolment of catchment students currently attending and returning. After February, the projected enrolment at Wood will be examined. Smyth said he expects to see an over-capacity.

By mid-March, returning out-of-catchment student numbers will be determined. New out-of-catchment students will only be accommodated where there is space.

“Then we will try to get the information out in an informative way and start conversations to reduce any panic,” Smyth said.

Alberni Valley News

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