South Park, Cloverdale to be neighbourhood schools, despite objections

About 60 parents filled a special meeting of the Greater Victoria school board Tuesday night and left disappointed as trustees made their decision on a district boundary review that has been going on over the past year.

Among those hoping for a different outcome were members of the school communities at South Park Family School and Cloverdale Traditional School, where there are long-serving district programs “of choice.”

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The third and final phase of the review contains 30 recommendations, including the measures at South Park and Cloverdale. All were approved.

The South Park program places an emphasis on parent participation, art and the environment, while Cloverdale has a structured program and student uniforms. But trustees’ vote turns both into neighbourhood schools, which parents fear will jeopardize the ability of the programs to continue.

“Our parent body is 100 per cent on board with maintaining Cloverdale as a traditional school,” said parent Starr Munro. “We’ve put a number of proposals forward to the district for different options for ways it could possibly work.”

Jenn Sutton, who chairs the South Park Parent Advisory Council, said she felt there was still data to be considered in the process

She said trustees didn’t need to make a decision on Tuesday and that a final outcome could have been delayed as late as December, in advance of registration for 2020 kindergarten classes.

The Cloverdale model has been in place since 2007, while South Park has run its program for 45 years.

No changes related to the review will be put in place until September 2020.

“Nobody here has any motive other than doing the best possible job for all families in the district,” said trustee Tom Ferris.

Superintendent Shelley Green said the review covered a lot of ground. “It’s a difficult journey,” she said.

The review in the district of about 20,000 students was undertaken with a goal of adjusting school-catchment areas so that individual schools are not too full.

It is the first such review in 20 years and comes at a point where the district is expected to grow by about 1,800 students in the next decade.

Also included in the recommendations are the following:

* Redraw the George Jay Elementary catchment to divide it among South Park, Sir James Douglas and Quadra elementaries, along an elementary school made up of the Bank Street and Sundance facilities.

* Have the Bank Street/Sundance Elementary draw from some of the students currently attending Oaklands, Willows and George Jay elementaries.

* Expand the McKenzie Elementary catchment to take in part of the Tillicum Elementary catchment.

* Open Richmond Elementary, closed as a full-time elementary school in 2004, to become the Grade 6 campus for nearby Lansdowne Middle School.

* Review opening the S.J. Willis site, closed as a school in 1983 and used for a variety of programs since, for use as a middle school. First, the building would be used as “swing space” to temporarily relocate groups whose schools are undergoing seismic upgrades.

A number of the recommendations deal with what schools students should attend as they progress from elementary to middle and secondary levels.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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