Focus shifts to rezoning after Public Schools Branch decisions


Published on April 11, 2017

Rural P.E.I. parents and community members react to some of the Public Schools Branch’s decisions during last night’s meeting at Bluefield High School.

©MITCH MACDONALD/TC MEDIA

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - When Sandra Clements’ daughter and son go to back to school after the summer break, they will be attending a new school.

Thanks to rezoning decisions made by the board of directors of the Public Schools Branch last week, the Clements children will be moved from Stratford Elementary to Donagh.

I strongly feel that some children are going to have a really, really big issue with this.

Sandra Clements

But another rezoning decision will see the English and French immersion students who live in this area also sent to separate junior high schools, with English students going to Birchwood and French immersion students going to Stonepark.

Clements says families in the area were blindsided by this decision.

“We all feel very strongly that the children from this area should be able to go to the same junior high as the Stratford children,” Clements said.

“It’s their social connection… there’s a lot of families in this subdivision who have got three and four children with some in French and some in English. So it’s splitting families as well.”

Hundreds of students will be moved to different schools in September as a result of rezoning decisions made by the three-member board of the public schools branch last week.

Up until now, concerns about proposed school closures dominated much of the public discourse since the P.E.I. school review process began last fall, with proposed rezoning taking a back seat to parents and communities making impassioned pleas to save their schools.

Now that Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s cabinet has rejected school closures, focus now has shifted to implementing the rezoning motions passed by the board, which are final.

Parker Grimmer, director of the Public Schools Branch, says he understands people may be confused and concerned about some of the changes, but now that decisions have been made, clarity and support will be provided.

Schools are confirming the current home addresses of all students. After this, letters will be issued to inform parents about how rezoning will impact their individual children. Transition teams have been formed to help support children through this time of change.

Grimmer says rezoning will be strictly enforced. Families can apply to have their children attend a school out of zone, but Grimmer stressed these requests would only be approved in exceptional circumstances.

“This will be the exception, not the rule, and it would be in co-ordination with branch-based student services team that would agree it was in the interest of the student to go to another school.”

Grimmer says he knows some parents might not be happy their children will be rezoned to different schools.

But he pointed to the concerns that initially sparked the school review – overcrowding in some schools, underutilization in others – and noted that redistributing students is the best way to ease enrolment pressures.

“These decisions are final. The board has asked us to implement them with integrity and meaning, and we recognize that not everybody is going to be 100 per cent comfortable with these decisions at this time,” Grimmer said.

“We’re going to work really hard to make sure it does what it’s intended for our students.”

But Clements says many parents feel their children are “being used as pawns” to fill schools with fewer students so those schools will be allocated more teachers and support staff.

“I strongly feel that some children are going to have a really, really big issue with this.”

 

Rezoning’s impact on student enrolment and capacity at most affected schools:

- West Royalty enrolment will decrease from 526 to 433 and capacity from 94 per cent to 78 per cent

- West Kent enrolment will increase from 187 to 278 and capacity from 46 per cent to 68 per cent.

- Prince Street enrolment will decrease from 243 to 233 and capacity from 62 per cent to 60 per cent.

- Sherwood enrolment will decrease from 523 to 491 and capacity from 91 per cent to 88 per cent.

- Donagh enrolment will increase from 123 to 216 and capacity will increase from 50 per cent to 89 per cent.

- Stonepark enrolment will decrease from 911 to 693 and capacity from 113 per cent to 86 per cent.

- Birchwood enrolment will increase from 228 to 438 and capacity from 38 per cent to 74 per cent.

- Queen Charlotte enrolment will increase slightly from 541 to 552 and capacity 87 per cent to 89 per cent.

- St. Jean enrolment will increase slightly from 117 to 120 and capacity from 25 per cent to 26 per cent.

- Spring Park will decrease slightly from 541 to 515 students and capacity from 94 per cent this year to 89 per cent.