By Doug Hallett
Many parents of French immersion students at Victory school say they’d consider switching their children into the regular English track, rather than go along with school board proposals for dealing with enrolment pressures at the school.
Victory, a dual-track school for junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students, is caught up in a boundary review for the rebuilt King George school, which opened this fall. The review is determining what King George’s boundaries will be in September 2014, when it becomes a JK-8 French immersion centre.
The preferred scenario of staff at the Upper Grand District School Board would see all of Victory’s Grade 4 to 6 French immersion students moved to King George in 2014. An alternative scenario from board staff would shrink Victory’s French immersion attendance area for all of its junior kindergarten to Grade 6 French immersion students, with all FI students north of Division Street sent to King George. Victory’s boundary for students in the regular English track wouldn’t change under these scenarios from board staff.
A survey of Victory parents indicates many would consider switching their children from FI to the regular English track, said Aaron Blair, a French immersion parent at Victory.
“The community values a neighbourhood school strongly enough that they’d consider sending kids to English so they can stay in their community,” he said in an interview.
Parents have a number of concerns about the board’s proposals for their school, said Blair, one of two French immersion parents from Victory who spoke as delegations at a recent board meeting.
These include logistical concerns about how to deal with having young children from the same family at two different schools, he said.
As well, “not everybody succeeds at French immersion,” and the board’s proposals could complicate moving children out of French immersion to the English program for parents in the Victory school community, he said.
There is also some concern that if Victory has only FI students up to Grade 3 it could be seen as a “baby school,” he told the Trib. “What does that mean for program effectiveness, as well as the environment for the remaining kids who lose out on interacting with some of their peers?” he asked.
The presentations made by Blair and Martina White, who are part of the same group of Victory parents formed to respond to the board proposals for their school, have been posted by the board at www.ugdsb.on.ca/kgbr – the site for the King George boundary review.
Out of 50 Victory parents who recently met at the school, the majority supported a proposal to turn Victory into a JK-5 school for both FI and English students, Blair said.
This proposal would see Grade 6 students in the regular English track at Victory transferred to Willow Road school, while Grade 6 FI students would go to King George instead of Victory. Parents also want the board to look at renovation options for Victory that might let it return later to being a JK-6 school.
“Parents feel so strongly about this that in a recent survey of 61 households, 49 have confirmed that they will strongly consider transferring their children to English,” his presentation states.
“This amounts to 94 children, current and future,” it says. This would “significantly” reduce the number of children who’d go to King George instead of Victory, it says, and as a result the board’s “current objective of populating King George may be in jeopardy.”
Blair acknowledged that the whole of Victory school can’t be said to stand behind the proposal to make it a dual-track JK-5 school.
“We did have some English representation” at a parents’ meeting late last month, but not enough “to say this is what the whole school wants,” he said.
“Our next step is to get internal engagement from the English parents and see if they support this as well,” he said.
Victory, an old school next to Exhibition Park, now has 200 FI students and 84 students in the regular English track. As things stand, Victory would be about 100 students over its capacity of 294 when full-day kindergarten starts there in September 2014, says a board staff report released last month.
The board has set Nov. 30 as the deadline for public input on King George’s boundaries for 2014. It plans to make public a final boundary report on Dec. 7, which is to go to the board’s business operations committee on Dec. 11 and then to the board for final approval on Dec. 18.
Blair said Victory parents want the board to extend these timelines to allow more thorough study of the issue with more parent involvement.