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Thursday, 09 June 2011 11:35

Residents meet to discuss future Swift Current school options

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The first public consultation held by officials with the Chinook School Division to decide the future grade configurations of Swift Current’s schools answered some questions and created a lot more.

Chinook representatives want the public’s input on how to modify the grades offered in the city’s schools once the new school that will be near the Cypress Regional Hospital is opened. École Oman will be closed for that school to open, forcing major changes, especially to Fairview School.

Liam Choo-Foo, the division’s director of education, presented four scenarios to the approximately 40 people who attended.

Swift Current Comprehensive High School will continue offering grades 9 through 12 in all the scenarios while the new school will offer kindergarten through Grade 8.

Ashley Park, Fairview, Central and O.M. Irwin Schools, however, may face huge changes.

Under two of the scenarios presented Tuesday, all four schools would offer kindergarten to Grade 8. The departure from those scenarios would be different catchment areas.

Another possible configuration would have Fairview, Central and Ashley Park offer kindergarten through Grade 5 with Irwin offering grades 6 through 8. The final option has Fairview offering kindergarten through Grade 8 and accepting all students from the south side of the city. Core area students would attend either Central or Ashley Park through Grade 5 before attending Irwin for grades 6 through 8.

All four scenarios will have different capital needs and different enrolment numbers, some of which put schools over their capacities based on 2010 figures.

Seeing these scenarios led people who attended the consultation to question the value of having middle school education being separate from elementary school.

“Looking at K through five and K through eight, there’s definitely pros and cons to both,” said Tricia Holliday. “You can go to a smaller school and keep the numbers down with K through five, but K through eight provides less transitions for the children going from elementary to middle to the Comp.”

Holliday lives on the south side of the city and will have her children attend Fairview School once the changes are in place.

In addition to worrying about transitions through school, people at her table discussed concerns over renovations to Fairview School. Based on 2010 enrolment numbers under the proposed scenarios, Fairview School would be over capacity in three of the four scenarios. It will be over-capacity in all four scenarios based on 2014 projected enrolment numbers.

Holliday is worried about the school being too full and having her children taught in portable classrooms.

There were also concerns regarding bussing in the south side and security at the new school should the City follow through with its proposed integrated facility.

Other people raised concerns about what this change to the education system will do to the south side of the city in general.

“As far as I’m concerned, you’re not making the south side part of Swift Current anymore,” said Judy Mauer, who no longer has children in the school system, but is a concerned resident. “When I moved here over 30 years ago, I was told by somebody that I was moving to the wrong side of the tracks and I laughed because I was from Calgary and the house I was buying was two years old. I believe it now because they’re making it the wrong side of the tracks.

“If Oman isn’t viable, I don’t understand why we can’t tear that down and build a new school there. The land is there already. If it’s the ministry that says we have to have a partner, I’d like the minister of education to come and tell me that then because I’m having a hard time accepting that.”

Mauer was also disappointed with the turnout for the meeting. She blames the division for not advertising the event very well, as she found out about it the day of the event.

Tim Ramage, a school board trustee for the City of Swift Current, was also hoping for more people to show up. He hoped at least 100 people would come to the event so the board can have more input from the public before making its decision on the future of Swift Current’s schools.

Ramage isn’t concerned with the numbers yet, but he is hopeful more people will show up at the June 13 consultation at Ashley Park School. He also wants to see a lot more people express their opinion.

“Does it concern us right now? No,” said Ramage. “Even with the group here, tell your friends to come out and voice their opinion, especially for the city representatives to hear the peoples’ voice. We want to hear people from the south side to the Highland area and all over the city for what is best. We want to listen.”

The division will compile the results of each form filled out be people who attended the event and future consultations.

They will then go back to the board table to discuss what action they want to take to modify the grade configuration at Swift Current’s schools after the new one is built.

Chinook is hoping for the new school to open in September 2013, but that may not happen until September 2014.

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