South Park Family School has offered an “alternative program based on a philosophy of cooperative parent participation” for the last 45 years. Under SD61’s new catchment boundaries, the facility will become a catchment school rather than a ‘school of choice.’ (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Greater Victoria School District’s new catchment boundaries eliminate ‘programs of choice’

Parents expressed concerned catchment boundaries will destroy schools’ culture

After months of community and school meetings, consultations and surveys, Greater Victoria School District 61 (SD61) approved new catchment boundaries for the 2020/2021 school year – and the changes eliminate all ‘schools of choice’ in the district.

South Park Family School, Cloverdale Traditional School and École Beausoleil Victoria (the Bank Street facility) will become catchment schools – a change introduced to address population density in the core areas of Victoria and Saanich. The facility on Bank Street will become a single-track school.

READ ALSO: Victoria school district heads into final phase of catchment boundary consultations

SD61 has 47 schools across six municipalities in Greater Victoria. The district says an additional 1,000 students have registered in its schools in the last four years – putting pressure on a number of full or near-full facilities.

“After a lengthy consultation process and multiple proposals, the board has landed on a solution that we feel best addresses the issue of overcrowding in our schools,” said board chair Jordan Watters in a statement. “This has not been an easy decision for the board, however, we are confident that the latest recommendations will provide a long-term solution and best accommodate the needs of families across our current 47 schools.”

Since the fall, the school district has been engaging stakeholders in a lengthy consultation and engagement process, receiving a great deal of feedback from parents and guardians of students concerned about losing programs of choice – in February, more than 140 people from South Park Family School rallied for a ‘Save Our School’ campaign.

“Changing our family school from an elementary school of choice to a catchment school is removing the core fabric of what makes this school special to every student, teacher, and parent involved,” said South Park Family School Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) chair Jenn Sutton. “Our school’s philosophy is based on the commitment by a large number of its families to be actively and direct engaged in our school environment.”

READ ALSO: Catchment will terminate unique learning style of South Park school, parents say

READ ALSO: South Park parents rally after threat of catchment change

READ ALSO: Cloverdale parents look to rally, save school’s ‘culture’

In an announcement of the new catchment boundaries, SD61 says it heard from thousands of parents throughout the process.

Watters said, “it was clear that any changes would have a domino effect and would be extremely challenging for students and families. It has been with very careful consideration that the Board has approved the recommendations, which includes a new enrolment sibling priority for families that are affected by boundary changes to help assist them during a time of transition.”

SD61 will work with all schools that have new catchment boundaries to “facilitate smooth transitions” and students will remain at their current schools until their next school level transition – moving up to middle and secondary schools in the new catchment boundaries.

Students enrolled in a school where the boundaries have changed can apply for a transfer to their new catchment and incoming students can apply for transfers to attend the same school as an older sibling, receiving a “non-catchment sibling priority.”

SD61 adds that transfer requests will still be “facilitated with new enrolment priorities” but requests will be “based on the availability of seats at the desired school.”

Registration for the 2020/2021 school year starts January, 2020. For more information on the approved catchment boundaries, visit sd61.bc.ca.

READ ALSO: Victor School to remain as specialized education facility



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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