Comment: Economic and cultural diversity are wide at traditional school

Re: “Equity is important in school board’s decisions on catchment,” comment, Feb. 28.

Apart from attending three meetings and writing a letter to the school trustees and the superintendent of schools, I have hesitated to write my opinion to the news media. But I now believe I must respond to Tara Ehrcke’s comments.

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Ehrcke is a teacher, past-president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association and a South Park grad.

I am a retired public high school math teacher who had no involvement in a traditional school until my grandchildren started attending Cloverdale Traditional School 10 years ago.

Retired teachers are always looking for places to volunteer, and traditional schools encourage parental involvement. This seemed like a good fit, even though I did not have any elementary experience. I have continued to volunteer for half a day these past 10 years. I have called it “my happy place.” Plus, I have volunteered with the breakfast program at another public elementary school.

I believe that I have valid credentials to make the following comments.

First, some random thoughts regarding schools of choice:

Are not French immersion programs schools of choice, whether single track, dual track or late-immersion track? What about the choices that many of our high schools are able to offer? So, why focus only on the effect of these particular schools of choice as being a form of “informal segregation”?

The comment on “programs of choice or schools of choice having a distinct set of potential advantages” is certainly merited.

Students fluent in French have better access to government jobs. Students who attend a “basketball” high school have better access to scholarships to specific universities.

Please explain why parents should not advocate for proven successful outcomes for their children. And why is the school district not able to offer more parents this benefit, as it is obviously in demand?

Attending any of the schools of choice does offer additional benefits.

Are there not barriers excluding many families from all of these choices? Rather than limiting choices, I recommend increasing choices. Many students who have learning disabilities are gifted in many other ways.

For example, students who are limited by dyslexia might be gifted artists. Maybe parents would welcome a fine arts school of choice or a French immersion traditional school.

The second problem Ehrcke mentions regarding the impact of schools of choice needs to be addressed.

Rather than the negative impact as set forth, my experience after volunteering at CTS these past 10 years certainly calls her research into question. The school population at CTS covers every socio-economic group. It has been inspiring to see that there is no race, no economic class, no intellectual distinction evidenced within the school population.

The view that: “The effect can be informal segregation, typically along socio-economic lines” is a preconceived concept often put forth by those in opposition to choice schools.

Besides all the cultural diversity at CTS, the economic diversity is vast: dual-working parents, professional parents, single parents and grandparenting parents. The uniform levels the playing field.

Recommendation: Become familiar with the facts.

How many trustees have visited, spent a few hours or half a day at these schools of choice?

How many public school teachers or union officials have visited, spent a few hours or half a day at these two schools of choice? The traditional school model was new to all the current teachers and past teachers. Talk to these colleagues, as their opinions and views are valuable, especially those who have been there since the beginning.

As a public school teacher myself, my opinion has greatly altered after volunteering there.

Many options have been suggested. I recommend that the board take the time to make its decision wisely, as it affects the future.

Dorothy Reimer lives in Victoria.

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