By Doug Hallett
Public school board trustees voted Tuesday to make it easier for East Wellington students to stay in French immersion in Guelph schools for the next two years, before being sent to Erin schools.
On a 7-3 vote, trustees passed an amendment that would provide busing for any of these students who want to attend the new King George school for the next two years. Board staff had recommended that busing not be provided for these students who live in an area that includes Rockwood, Eden Mills and Everton
The amendment passed at Tuesday’s committee meeting goes to the board’s monthly meeting on Jan. 24 for a final decision. Guelph trustees Jennifer Waterston and Mark Bailey voted no Tuesday, along with Shelburne trustee Lynn Topping.
The board’s business operations approved the busing concession after a delegation of Rockwood parents challenged the process being used by the board. The parents claimed the board should have gone through a full accommodation review, rather than just holding a boundary review for Edward Johnson school, before deciding to send French immersion students from East Wellington to Erin schools.
The boundary review was launched to deal with enrolment pressure at Edward Johnson, a junior kindergarten to Grade 6 French immersion centre. This enrolment pressure is linked to the growing popularity of French immersion in Guelph and to the introduction of full-day kindergarten, which comes to Edward Johnson in September 2013.
The boundary review is setting a boundary that will see some Guelph students who now attend Edward Johnson go instead to the new school that will open in September on the site of the demolished King George school.
On Tuesday, trustees approved a modified version of the boundary originally recommended by staff. The change means French immersion students living south of Grange Road will go to King George instead of Edward Johnson. Only one student at Edward Johnson is affected for now, but the board expects that the change will mean 25 fewer students at Edward Johnson in the future as this new residential area south of Grange Road expands.
Main roads – Eramosa, Victoria, Starwood and Watson – are t be the dividing lines between the boundaries of Edward Johnson and King George, starting in September.
King George is to be used as a “holding school” for the first two years it’s open, with both FI students and students in the regular English track. However, board staff say they are assuming it will become JK-8 French immersion centre in September 2014.
Board staff’s original proposal was that the more than 40 East Wellington students now being bused to Edward Johnson school for junior kindergarten to Grade 6 be shifted next fall to Brisbane school in Erin. They’d then go to Erin Public School for Grades 7 and 8, and would move on to Erin District High School.
East Wellington students now in Grade 5 at Edward Johnson are to be allowed to stay at Edward Johnson for Grade 6, and then they’d follow the established path of going to John McCrae school for grades 7 and 8 and then going to John F. Ross Collegiate. They’d also have the option of moving to Brisbane school in September.
In their most recent report, board staff proposed that the JK-4 students from East Wellington be allowed to attend King George school during the next two school years, but without board-supplied student transportation. By September 2014, they’d be expected to go the schools in Erin.
One of the complaints of the East Wellington parents was that it would take longer on a school bus to get to Brisbane school than it does to get to Edward Johnson. The new staff report says that while Brisbane is farther away, “the actual time spent on a school bus would be comparable.”
By Doug Hallett