Brandon School Division has set a deadline of December to decide on how to deal with increasing enrolment challenges.
Over the past month, there have been three public information sessions, inviting parents to provide feedback on several options currently being considered. Roughly 200 people came out in total.
“It really shows that people have a genuine interest in what’s going on,” said board chair Mark Sefton. “There were a lot of people there … advocating for their kids, and that’s exactly what the job of a parent is, to make sure that things are going to go as well as possible for them.”
Enrolment continues to rise in the division and several schools are at or near capacity. Current enrolment is at 8,232 — that’s an additional 309 students, compared to September 2011. The division projects that increasing trend to only continue.
By 2016, an estimated 13 additional classrooms will be required for grades 4 to 8, while an additional 12 high school classrooms will be needed by 2017.
In kindergarten to Grade 3, a projected 66 additional classrooms will be needed by 2016, due to both population growth as well as meeting a provincial mandate to cap K-3 classes at 20 students.
Meadows School and École New Era School are the two facing the most pressure. Meadows currently has 448 students, while New Era has 550.
The division has already exceeded the projected numbers for 2014-15, and as Sefton has previously stated, “the immediate need for action and public consultation is based on the reality that École New Era School has reached its student capacity. The board of trustees wishes to make it very clear that doing nothing is not an option.”
The division would like to see a new school up and running by the fall of 2015 and has made the request to the province.
Now that the three consultations are complete, the board will now analyze all the information that was shared, and go through surveys completed by those in attendance and through the division’s website.
“There were groups at each session that filled out a chart, outlining what they saw as the pros and cons for each of the possible proposals, and also offered some alternate proposals,” Sefton said. “So we’ve got to go through all that and analyze it all, and then ultimately make a decision, which is not going to be an easy task.”
Several options are being considered, including moving all French immersion students from New Era to Earl Oxford in the 2013-14 school year; bus the English-speaking New Era students living north of the CP Rail tracks to Kirkcaldy Heights; incorporate grades 7 and 8 French immersion at École Secondaire Neelin High School; or add classroom portables to schools that require more capacity.
“Inevitably, no matter what we do, there are people who are going to be unhappy with it,” Sefton said. “And our job is to do what’s best for the division overall, and that’s a job that we’ll do.”
One idea that continued to pop up at the consultations was to use vacant space at Assiniboine Community College’s Victoria Avenue East campus.
“(Parents were) wondering if there’s a way that we could make use of that space in a partnership with ACC to try to free up some space in schools,” Sefton said. “So that’s something we need to examine.”
Sefton said the division wants to have their decision made before Christmas break.
“We want to have our decision made and announced so that ... things can be implemented for the fall of 2013,” Sefton said. “We want to make sure that we give families lots and lots of notice for any changes that are going to come down because they need time to adjust and to plan.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2012