M.V. Beattie school in Enderby is full — and something has to be done about it before this fall.
About 100 people attended a community meeting at A.L. Fortune Secondary on Tuesday to hear that in September M.V. Beattie will need a minimum of 15 classrooms, but currently has 13.
Current projections show that M.V. Beattie will have 343 students in kindergarten through Grade 7, but only has capacity for 300.
Earlier in the month Official Trustee Mike McKay had outlined four possible options which he could see, but wanted to hear from the community for others.
McKay stated at the beginning of the meeting that his bias is not to use funds for portables if space is available elsewhere, which it is at A.L. Fortune and Grindrod.
He also didn’t necessarily want to tell some students they now had to leave their friends and go to school somewhere else.
“My bias is that the money should go towards programs and services to support kids,” says McKay.
However, many in the audience stated they felt the district had already decided on moving the grade six and/or grade seven students to A.L. Fortune, and were not legitimately consulting.
McKay took exception to this statement. “I’m being as transparent as I can. I have not made any decision.”
“If this was a done deal, we’d be home watching bad hockey,” he stated.
Options presented to date are:
Option 1: Install 2 portable classrooms at M.V. Beattie Elementary in time for the 2017-18 school year. These portables would be in place for the foreseeable future, given the enrolment projections available to us at this time.
Option 2: Declare M.V. Beattie full and return all out of catchment students to their home schools. This would reduce but not eliminate the space problem at M.V. Beattie.
Initial comment/perspective from McKay:
Option 3: Re-draw the catchment area/boundary maps this spring to increase the catchments for Grindrod Elementary and Ranchero Elementary.
Option 4: Adjust the grade ranges for M.V. Beattie and for A.L Fortune.
M.V. Beattie to a K-5 configuration with A.L. Fortune becoming a Grade 6-12 school;
M.V. Beattie to a K-6 configuration with A.L. Fortune becoming a Grade 7-12 school.
Some parents spoke quite strongly against moving the grade 7 students and/or the grade 6 and 7 students to the high school stating they were not mature enough, would be exposed to too much and would miss out on the “leadership” years at their elementary school.
Some parents suggested adding portables, building on to the school, or converting space that currently has other uses into a classroom (ie music room).
One parent spoke against this saying that overcrowding the school would put too much stress on areas like music, gym time and other physical literacy activities.
Others suggested that rather than moving the students to the high school some hybrid of the other options should be undertaken.
It was also suggested that the StrongStart program be moved to either the high school or Grindrod, that a bus run to Grindrod from Enderby to encourage people to send their children there, or even possibly having a middle school at Grindrod.
It was also suggested by audience members that the district buy back the former Ashton Creek Elementary, that Ashton Creek students be re-routed to Grindrod rather than M.V. Beattie, and that parents fundraise and build an addition to the school themselves.
After three hours of discussion, McKay thanked everyone for attending. “I appreciate your passion. There are touch decisions to be made and some people are going to be impacted. There are no impact-free decision.”
Another meeting is being scheduled for later in the month where more complete details and costs about each option will be flushed out.
Online survey feedback is also being sought. The survey is on the website at www.sd83.bc.ca until May 5.
A decision on the matter is expected at the public board meeting on May 15.
(Contents include news release from Alice Hucal from SD 83)