By Lethbridge Herald on February 25, 2021.
With a few minor tweaks based on the feedback received from parents, the Lethbridge School Division Board of Trustees approved most of the boundary changes previously proposed during Tuesday’s meeting.
Board chair Christine Light said she and her fellow trustees realize these changes would be hard for some parents, but felt they made the decisions they did with the best interests of the entire school division in mind.
“It has been a hard journey for the board, because we are very aware these decisions affect families, and I have gotten several phone calls and emails from parents telling me their personal stories,” she explained.
“Some families are affected deeply.
“These things have been really hard to wrestle with, and to make decisions, I know, will affect these people. But looking at the decision as a whole, we do believe this is the best blueprint to move forward with at this time.”
While the changes do impact several schools and areas within the city, perhaps parents of French immersion students at Ecole Nicholas Sheran will be the most heavily impacted as they will now have to bus their children to Ecole Agnes Davidson starting next fall if they want to continue in the new single track French program there.
“We knew we needed to move at least 200 elementary students from the westside, and so looked at several alternatives on how we could do that,” explained Light.
“So moving the westside French students and creating a single-stream French program at Ecole Agnes Davidson was the last resort we looked at, and it seems to be the best path forward.”
Light said about one-third of French immersion students who currently attend Nicholas Sheran live in the school’s newly-defined catchment area, and will have the option to stay in the English program or bus to Agnes Davidson to remain in French. About two-thirds of the French immersion students do not live in the Nicholas Sheran catchment area, and will have to enroll in one of the English-stream elementary schools if they do not wish to bus to the southside.
English-stream parents at Ecole Agnes Davidson will also have to change schools this fall, but the board of trustees took parent feedback into account on this issue, and provided a three-year grace period where the parents can either choose to attend Lakeview School or Dr. Robert Plaxton. Busing will be provided by the division to either school, explained Light, but after three years all English-stream students will be required to attend Dr. Robert Plaxton as their new catchment area, and the busing option for Lakeview will be withdrawn.
“What we are doing with Agnes Davidson, because it is really difficult,” acknowledged Light, “the English Agnes families were a really difficult piece of the puzzle for the trustees to navigate. Because essentially what we were deciding on was removing a community from their community school. So what we wanted to do was extend an olive branch, and say, ’You know what? For this period of time (three years) we allow you to choose either Dr. Robert Plaxton, the new elementary school, or Lakeview Elementary.”
Prior to passing the overall boundary changes, the LSD Board of Trustees also amended the plan to meet the concerns of parents in the Crossings neighbourhood of west Lethbridge.
“The Crossings was moved from Coalbanks, then moved to Mike Mountain Horse, and then in the final change was moved to Nicholas Sheran as their catchment school,” explained Light. “And they did not like that, and they didn’t feel they had opportunity to give feedback because they didn’t think they would be affected (by the initial boundary change). That was completely understood, and I appreciated the frustration of that, and the optics of that. We felt (as a board) it was really important to hear their (concerns).
“They sounded like they really wanted to be able to attend Mike Mountain Horse; so we made the amendment to the proposal that the Crossings community would have priority in school choice for Mike Mountain Horse.”
To view all the new boundary changes visit https://www.lethsd.ab.ca/our-district/news/post/board-of-trustees-passes-motion-to-change-school-boundaries-for-2021-2022
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