Grade 7 student Lulu Garcia and her father Felipe Garcia address the crowd at the Brandon School Division’s public consultation on Monday night. (JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN)
École New Era School is the only school Grade 7 student Lulu Garcia has known since she arrived in Brandon from Mexico six years ago.
She, along with other New Era students, are worried that they may have to switch schools for their final Grade 8 year next September.
"For me, to leave all this behind and start in my last year at Earl Oxford, I just couldn’t go through that," Garcia said. "I made a lot of friends and none of us would like to get moved. I mean imagine … starting again."
She said she enjoys the programs offered at New Era, such as family nights, and adores her teachers.
Garcia expressed her opinion to a crowd of more than 150 people Monday night. The Brandon School Division held a public consultation at the North End Community Centre to share a tentative plan on how to deal with school overcrowding and get feedback from the community.
Board chair Mark Sefton outlined the division’s four-point tentative plan, with the help of a Spanish interpreter.
There are currently approximately 120 English program students transferred to New Era by school bus from the neighbourhood north the CP Rail tracks, between 18th Street and First Street. As of September 2013, a group of these students will be reassigned to Earl Oxford. Brothers and sisters will not be separated.
Maria Manzano has three children currently attending New Era. She said her daughter, who is in Grade 7, is upset by the thought of moving for her final year.
"She’s very sad and angry sometimes," Manzano said. "It would be very difficult to change schools … She has lots of friends, she works very hard and is an excellent student … I’m feeling the same. I don’t want to change."
Another comment from a member of the public was that moving students may disrupt them socially and it may be a better idea to move an entire class instead of just the bus students.
Delvina Kejick, program co-ordinator at New Era, said program transition to a new school will take time.
Cultural programs, such as weekly powwow nights, can’t be replicated easily, she said. The school also offers programs in the evenings and weekends that help empower newcomers to the community.
"I just don’t want you to take for granted that those programs can be easily transferred," Kejick said.
The second part of the tentative plan is to request additional portable classrooms from the Public Schools Finance Board and assign them to schools with the greatest need.
The board will also study the possibility of accommodating additional French immersion students at École Harrison to ease the enrolment pressure on New Era.
The fourth point is for the board to have discussions with Assiniboine Community College and Manitoba Education regarding the idea to use the unused shop spaces at ACC’s Victoria Avenue East campus for BSD industrial arts, home economics and other programs.
The board of trustees established the tentative plan after reviewing data collected at public consultations last month.
Enrolment continues to rise in the division and several schools are at or near capacity. Enrolment is at 8,232 — that’s an additional 309 students, compared to September 2011. The division projects that increasing trend to only continue, as they have already exceeded the projected numbers for 2014-15.
Supt. Donna Michaels said she was pleased to see such a large turnout at the consultation.
"This is what education and democracy is all about," she said. "We’re really glad to see such a diversity of people. It gives us a chance to understand what a whole wide range of people think about things in the school division."
The board will consider feedback and surveys from the public consultation before making its final decision at the next board meeting Nov. 12.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 6, 2012