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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:29

Chinook gets word out on new school more in integrated facility consultation

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

The third time seemed to be the charm for the Chinook School Division’s public consultations.

After struggling to draw more than 30 people to any of its consultations in June about reconfiguring the grades of Fairview, Ashley Park, Central and O.M. Irwin Schools, the division’s representatives were bombarded with questions at the City’s consultation July 27.

This consultation, which was held at the Credit Union i-plex, involved the other parties involved in Swift Current’s proposed integrated facility — the Cypress Health Region, the City of Swift Current and the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division. Liam Choo-Foo, Chinook’s director of education, believes that having all four parties present is part of the reason why approximately 200 people came out to the meeting and why the Chinook section of the room was always busy.

“I think part of that piece was we were able to reach a broader audience here, and it makes sense. We had four of the key sectors of the city all represented rather than one sector,” he said.

“I also think that through our consultations, word did get out that this one would be coming so people could speak to the bigger picture. That’s what we found with our consultation that people who did show up had concerns about the integrated facility as opposed to just the schools.”

The school division was trying to emphasize the point they aren’t abandoning the south side of the city. Fairview School will either become a K-5 or K-8 school and it will accept all children in those grades who live on the south side of the city once the new school is built.

The only children from the south side who will attend the new school who would have attended École Oman, which is being shut down, are the French immersion students.

Choo-Foo and other Chinook representatives also emphasized children will be bussed across Second Avenue Southeast to attend Fairview and they are building the new school where the City is planning its expansion.

Although the new school is supposed to be built in the northeast corner of the city, near the Cypress Regional Hospital, the division, and Mayor Jerrod Schafer, indicated it will eventually just be part of the city, just like Central School and the Comp. Both of those schools were built on the edge of Swift Current in 1914 and 1969, respectively.

Choo-Foo believes a lot of the tension surrounding the schools was relieved when these remarks were made.

“Certainly looking at the body language in the crowd when (chairperson) Randy (Beler) was able to say definitely that Fairview School would remain on the south side, it seemed to relax people and I think it was a great opportunity to bring that forward,” he said. “There has been some concern that because Oman is closing that all those students will be bused to the new school and that has never been the case. The plan has always been to provide services to those students on the south side.”

Once those issues were addressed, Choo-Foo said most of the other comments were around how the two proposed schools would work together, what resources would be shared and  the number of principals.

Chinook and Holy Trinity are just starting their discussions on what spaces to share.

Although there are still some concerned members of the community about how  changing the locations of the schools in Swift Current may affect the south side, overall Choo-Foo felt there was a positive response from the people for building a new school, and the other aspects of the integrated facility.

“Speaking to some of the other people manning their boards after the meeting, it seemed as if it was a fairly positive response folks had to the whole concept itself,” he said.

“I think it’s time. Swift Current has been a city that in the nine years I’ve been here has not received a great deal of provincial dollars for infrastructure and capital, especially at the school level. It’s our turn and our time to move forward.”

Click here to find out more about the consultation.

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