Chi­nook com­mu­ni­cates tran­si­tion plans for Swift Cur­rent core schools

Southwest Booster - - NEWS - SCOTT AN­DER­SON SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Agroup of ap­prox­i­mately 100 par­ents and school staff turned out on Mon­day to hear a Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion pre­sen­ta­tion re­gard­ing the tran­si­tion plans for Swift Cur­rent’s ele­men­tary and mid­dle years schools.

Mon­day was the first op­por­tu­nity for par­ents to di­rectly hear the specifics of the Core School plans, while all city ele­men­tary and mid­dle year par­ents re­ceived a let­ter on Tues­day ex­plain­ing the de­tails and op­tions for the up­com­ing school years.

The Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion Board of Ed­u­ca­tion voted by an 8-2 mar­gin at the Jan­uary board meet­ing to close Ash­ley Park School at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

With Ecole Cen­ten­nial School open­ing this fall, tak­ing in all French Im­mer­sion stu­dents plus city chil­dren liv­ing north of the Tran­sCanada High­way, and Fairview School al­ready be­gin­ning its tran­si­tion to a K to 8 school start­ing mid­way through next school year, there are con­sid­er­able lo­gis­ti­cal plans to be ini­ti­ated for the Core schools.

The clo­sure of Ash­ley Park has paved the way for O.M. Ir­win School and Cen­tral School to tran­si­tion into K to 8 schools. O.M. Ir­win School will be­come a Kinder­garten to Grade 8 school be­gin­ning at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Cen­tral School will have a more grad­ual tran­si­tion to adding the up­per grades to their cur­rent ele­men­tary school con­fig­u­ra­tion, adding Grade 6 stu­dents in 2014-2015, Grade 7 classes in 2015-2016, and com­pet­ing the move by adding Grade 8 classes in 20162017.

“This was our first op­por­tu­nity to come out to the com­mu­nity and re­ally start to speak about de­tails of the plan mov­ing for­ward,” Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion Liam Choo Foo ex­plained fol­low­ing Mon­day’s 90 minute meet­ing.

Much of the evening’s dis­cus­sion cen­tred around par­ents mak­ing at­ten­dance de­ci­sions re­gard­ing which core school their chil­dren will be at­tend­ing in the fall. In or­der to bal­ance the en­rol­ment num­bers, the Cen­tral School catch­ment zone was ex­panded to in­clude the area pri­mar­ily around the Elm­wood Park area south of the Creek.

A full ver­sion of the Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion at­ten­dance catch­ment ar­eas can be viewed at http://www.chi­nooksd.ca/.

“The tran­si­tion zone is be­ing cre­ated to try to bal­ance out the pop­u­la­tions mov­ing for­ward. Cen­tral is go­ing to lose al­most half of their pop­u­la­tion to Ecole Cen­ten­nial be­cause they cur­rently re­side north of High­way #1. And so to try and bal­ance out the num­ber of kids at Cen­tral School, the board has ex­tended the Cen­tral trans­porta­tion area out be­yond what it has nor­mally been,” Choo Foo ex­plained.

Af­ter com­mu­ni­cat­ing all their plans and op­tions, par­ents in the core area are now be­ing asked to des­ig­nate which school their chil­dren will be at­tend­ing mov­ing for­ward.

“What we’re re­ally fo­cussed on right now is try­ing to en­sure we have the ap­pro­pri­ate staffing lev­els in place for the stu­dents that are go­ing to be at Ash­ley Park, at Ir­win, and at Cen­tral.”

“I think right now prob­a­bly our big­gest chal­lenge is to get the mes­sage out to our com­mu­nity around what the op­tions are, over the next two years, in terms of be­ing able to re­ceive trans­porta­tion to a school. And then, what’s go­ing to hap­pen at the end of those two years, so that par­ents can make in­formed de­ci­sions around where they choose to send their kids.”

In ad­di­tion to learn­ing more about where stu­dents will be at­tend­ing classes in the fall, the Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion has also sur­veyed teach­ers in re­gards to their school pref­er­ences in the fu­ture, and they are now mov­ing for­ward with plan­ning the phys­i­cal changes nec­es­sary to make all th­ese plans a re­al­ity.

Choo Foo ad­mit­ted wait­ing un­til the end of the 20142015 school year to close Ash­ley Park al­lows them time to prop­erly en­act their plans.

“It is go­ing to give the com­mu­nity some time to pre­pare for the tran­si­tion. And the ex­pe­ri­ence has been, and most re­cently in the city we have gone through it with Oman, is that liv­ing un­der the cloud of un­cer­tainly is not a whole lot of fun ei­ther. And so now there is a de­fin­i­tive de­ci­sion made, and all of the school, stu­dent, staff tran­si­tion plans can be en­acted over the course of a full year.”

“I would say it’s a lit­tle bit of an un­usual tran­si­tion, but I think the board did some pretty good plan­ning that way in keep­ing Ash­ley open the ex­tra year to al­low the sys­tem op­por­tu­nity to make the tran­si­tion around the clo­sure, and also to pre­pare Cen­tral School and Ir­win School with the mi­nor ren­o­va­tions nec­es­sary to be­come K to 8 schools. With their pop­u­la­tions so low, we will be able to block off ar­eas of the school to do some renos with­out re­ally in­ter­fer­ing with the ev­ery­day ac­tiv­ity.”

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