Greater Victoria’s catchment boundary saga isn’t over yet.
Greater Victoria School District 61 (SD61) is launching the third and final phase of its public engagement process with ‘school-based consultations’ that will have the the district meet with the parents, guardians and staff of six schools directly affected by proposed boundary changes.
On Tuesday night SD61 voted unanimously to move forward into phase three after reviewing recommendations from the phase two report, created from a series of public engagement meetings on the proposed boundary changes.
“The Board of Education has heard from hundreds of parents and guardians, some who are supportive of the proposed changes and others who have requested alternative solutions to solve the overcrowding problem,” said board chair Jordan Watters. “We understand that we will not be able to make everyone happy; however, we’ve made a number of changes since reviewing the input from the community—and we are proud that the District has been able to accommodate so many of the specific neighbourhood requests we’ve received.”
Boundaries initially proposed in January have seen minor revisions to address neighbourhood concerns, with tweaks to existing catchments in the McKenzie-Colquitz area and Tillicum catchment, amongst other minor boundary revisions.
“Those aren’t necessarily the big pieces that mean a lot to whole communities but [they] make a big difference to the nine families that live on a certain cul-de-sac, for example,” Watters told Black Press Media.
“But a lot of the big pieces in this set of recommendations remain the same with regards to South Park, Cloverdale, Richmond school.”
It’s been 20 years since the district addressed catchment boundaries, and in the last four years, nearly 1,000 additional students have registered in SD61 schools with many now at capacity.
And SD61’s long-term projections indicate a steady increase in the student population over the next decade.
That’s why, in spring 2018, the district started a consultation process in the Thetis Vale area to change catchment boundaries, hoping to address capacity constraints and balance enrolment in its 47 schools. Since then the process has expanded across the district when it became clear the process needed to be broader due to “class size and composition requirements as well as increased enrolment.”
In fall 2018, phase one of the public engagement process collected responses from more than 5,100 community members to inform revisions heading into phase two, which started in January.
“Huge progress has been made in terms of all the voices we’ve heard and all the changes we’ve been able to incorporate and refine the proposal,” Watters said. “It makes for some difficult decisions and it certainly doesn’t feel good to be narrowing down on changes that are going to impact families, but as a board, we’re trying to make the best decision for the long-term.
“It’s like removing spider webs laying on top of each other… you pull one piece, and its very delicate. its very delicate work.”
Phase three will see the district consult with six schools: Cloverdale, South Park, Margaret Jenkins, Richmond, Quadra and McKenzie.
A final vote on the boundaries is scheduled for May 23, with changes implemented by the beginning of the school year in 2020.
An interactive digital map displaying details of the proposed catchment boundary changes is available online at sd61.bc.ca.