By Chris Pickup

A furious Caledonia parent took issue with the Grand Erie District School Board’s attitudeIt’s easier to move a program than a postal code’. 

“A postal code doesn’t cry every morning because it doesn’t know what the day will hold … a postal code doesn’t try to run away from school because it’s anxious, a postal code doesn’t get bullied,” she told the Board, Monday night. 

At issue is the Caledonia Centennial Public School’s (CCPS) seriously overcrowded conditions that are on course to get much worse, as the school is forced to take in more students from the postal code area of the new McClung/ Avalon housing development. 

The school is at 117% capacity already and as new housing continues, so will come more students. And fire safety issues. And no room for more portables.

Seven delegations pleaded with the Board to find another solution than splitting up a CCPS school program into two different schools. Monday’s 6-5 final decision to move half of the school’s French immersion (FI) program over to River Heights to make more room at CCPS left them feeling betrayed.

The move is not scheduled until 2019. Meanwhile the school’s intake of some 100 students from the McClung/ Avalon housing development this year has forced splitting of classrooms, and shuffling of students and teachers twice already since term began. 

And there are eight more months to go before the FI space can open up. So what happens between now and then?

Many parents wonder why the students from the new subdivisions are being given priority over students who are already enrolled at the school, and why they cannot be accommodated elsewhere until a new school is ready. 

The Board has given the rationale that the FI program is a ‘program of choice’, and therefore last to be considered.

The FI program was introduced into CCPS in 2011 when the school was half empty. It struggled in those early years when FI was not fully accepted but hard work by parents and teachers has produced a culture at the school where both education streams are enveloped in a cohesive social and recreational network that has bound them together. 

The English stream is also dismayed to lose the grade 4-8 FI students, some of whom will have to leave their siblings behind.

The FI program has a culture of its own. Older students are mentors for the younger students who presumably sometimes struggle with the difficulties of learning in an unfamiliar language. 

To split that bond will leave the younger grades without mentorship and the older grades isolated in a new school, faced with having to make new friends. There is the threat that as many as a third of students may quit the FI program to be able to remain at CCPS with their friends and siblings, which would only make the situation worse.

There is the question of French teachers, the possible loss of FI arts programs and loss of credit gained toward sports awards because River Heights teachers will have no past relationship with the CCPS students. 

Here’s a suggestion. Maybe the Board should junk the postal code issue for this one particular situation. 

Since all the subdivision students have to be bused and are facing the disruption from their old schools as they move into their new homes, it shouldn’t matter to them which school they go to until a new school is built on their home turf.

Boundaries for Haldimand’s schools don’t need to be rearranged. Just bus all future new students from the subdivisions to fill up River Heights space first, then move on to use extra space at JL Mitchener in Cayuga.

And leave the FI program intact at CCPS.