Thursday, January 21, 2010

Potential School Consolidations announced at Jan 19. Board Meeting

At the January 19th School Board meeting the trustees decided to begin consultation for the potential closure of  4 schools (Blueridge, Plymouth, Seymour Heights and Fromme) along with consultation to examine re-organization of alternative programs and to examine restructuring of elementary French immersion into single-track schools.

My personal perspective on this:

Firstly, I believe parents across the district and in the schools directly impacted recognize the need to make cuts to balance the budget. But I also sense that many are surprised, shocked and dismayed at the decisions that have been made, and I expect in other cases relieved not to be named.

These are terrible decisions to have to make and we understand that, but understanding does not reduce the pain and challenge involved in carrying out these decisions. The only good news is that by closing schools the district should be able to do more to ensure our students continue to receive the high quality education they receive today wherever they are in North Vancouver.

The challenge now is how to make this a process that ensures these are the right decisions, ones that enable the district to provide more classroom resources, capture the best aspects of the schools we have today and create a positive situation for children rather than a destructive process that pits schools against one another with students caught in the middle.

The situation at Fromme is clear in terms of what the board thinks needs to be done but hard to understand when the school is as strong and vibrant as it is. Maintaining that strength through this process is essential no matter where the final decision actually leads.

The situation East of the Seymour is more complicated and there is alot of confusion over what the Trustees actually think needs to be done in the area. Many parents are very surprised that all three schools are being contemplated for closure, although it is important to realize that this decision is only saying that each of the schools are part of the discussion at this stage, which makes sense as it is difficult contemplate changes to one school in an area without considering the others but it does not make it any easier for those on the list.

East of the Seymour, there aren't enough spaces elsewhere in the area to enable the district to close all three schools (Blueridge, Plymouth and Seymour), from a pure capacity perspective they could close any one of them and move those students to the remaining two or they could close two of them if a large number students move to Dorothy Lynas, Sherwood Park and Lynnmour.

It is a complicated set of options. Since the board is not permitted by policy to provide guidance on what they think needs to be done the working group being formed to discuss these closures will have to analyze all the options with regard to new configurations East of the Seymour and the transition effort needed to achieve those.

The situation with the alternative programs is also a challenge. The programs have each been created to serve different educational needs in the community, it may be difficult to find common ground in how they need to be organized and delivered to maximize their benefit to the students and the community.

For French Immersion the impacts are less immediately obvious but it will be interesting to see what the opportunities and options are for moving to French-only schools.

In all of these cases it will take a lot of discipline, communication, empathy and understanding to examine the potential changes without pitting groups that may later be consolidated against each other, but that is what is needed to enable a positive transition to the future configuration in each case.

NVPAC will be discussing the outcome of the board meeting and the upcoming consultation process at tonights NVPAC meeting (7pm LMCC)


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Jan. 19th School Board Meeting on School Consolidations

Meeting Reminder
North Vancouver School Board Meeting
Jan 19, 7pm, School Board Office

more info: 

As discussed during the School Boards budget consultation process, the board for 2010/2011 is expected to cut at least a $6 million from the budget in 2009/2010. To balance the budget, while protecting the excellent education our kids receive today, the School District will need to make significant cuts across the district including a number of school consolidations and program changes.

At the December board meeting the board asked the administration to consult with stakeholder groups to review the criteria for evaluating schools and from that to prepare a list of potential schools for  consolidation. We expect the trustees will receive this list of potential schools or programs for closure in 2010-2011 at Tuesday nights board meeting and they will then decide on the next steps in the consolidation process including potentially naming the schools the Board is considering closing and starting a consolidation consultation process for each of those schools.

NVPAC has been working with the school district throughout this process to ensure parent input is included and that these significant decisions are being made with both the short and long term needs of students in mind. If the Board approves a list of specific schools to consider for consolidation,  a working group of stakeholders for each school, including PACs, will be assembled and asked to consider both potential alternatives to closures and what issues exist that need to be resolved to enable a positive transition into a consolidated school.

Parents should be aware that these consolidations and budget cuts will impact all schools in the district to differing degrees. At the end of it our hope is that we will have a financially sustainable School District where we can afford high qualty and richly diverse education for all students.

For those wishing to have input  there are 10 minutes at the beginning of all Board meetings for the public to speak (2 minutes each) on issues on that meetings agenda. Please come in advance and sign up to speak if you wish to do so. There is also time for public comment on any education topic at the end of the Board Meeting.

NVPAC will be discussing the outcome of this meeting at Thursday's NVPAC general meeting (Thursday Jan 21st, 7pm, Leo Marshall Curriculum Centre.)