West Springs School redesignation appealed by Calgary parents
Parents concerned about moving students around, but research shows transportation is not the only problem
Some Calgary parents in the southwest are appealing a decision by the Calgary Board of Education to redesignate their neighbourhood school.
CBE decided last week West Springs School would become a Kindergarten to Grade 4 school as of September 2015.
Students in Grades 5 and 6 will be bused to Rosscarrock School — about 7.5 kilometres away from their current school.
The students will then move again for Grade 7. The decision follows several months of engagement between the CBE and parents.
Raquel Chondronikolis has three children enrolled in West Springs and sits on the school's parents council.
Along with other parents, she has been voicing her concerns about this change.
"When we all started West Springs in kindergarten, there was no talk that the school would ever be moved back to a K-4. So I think we all had the security that our kids would be able to continue from K-6," said Chondronikolis.
The mother of three says her eldest daughter will be one of the first shuffled out of West Springs. She is worried about the impact the move will have on her daughter.
"She's in a different community, she doesn't know it, she doesn't have friends there, she doesn't know the teachers, she doesn't know the principal, and we spent a lot of time so that our child can feel comfortable and then she's just gonna have to move," said Chondronikolis.
Parents asked for feedback
Before making this decision, the school board did ask parents for feedback.
According to the board's website, there were two focus group meetings, an open house and opportunities for parents to engage online and via email.
The CBE declined a CBC request for an a full interview, but says its decision to move to a kindergarten to Grade 4 configuration by 2016 was made because:
- It moves towards keeping youngest children closer to home.
- Students who were in kindergarten to Grade 4 at Wildwood School in 2009 moved to West Springs School when it opened in September 2010. Kindergarten students who were impacted by that move are in Grade 4 this year. Allowing these current Grade 4 students to finish Grade 6 at West Springs School aligns with feedback received about not moving this group of students for a third time.
- It allows some Cougar Ridge and West Springs students to attend Rosscarrock School together.
- Provides transportation service that is efficient and fiscally responsible given the proximity of schools and communities to each other.
Despite this, parents say at one point, they thought the K-4 option was off the table. Now, Kim Jones, a mother who with children impacted by the move, says she isn`t so convinced the process was entirely transparent.
"We were then told that a group of 10 parents met with the key decision maker behind closed doors — and suddenly we showed up at Rosscarrock open house and found out that this option was back on the table."
The parents have filed an appeal to have this decision reversed.
Part of their appeal includes research compiled by Michelle Kincade.
In addition to having a child enrolled at West Springs, she's also a clinical psychologist. When she learned of the proposed change, she looked at expert analysis, academic journals to try and figure out what would be in the children's best interest.
"Then I'm looking at research that says what does transitioning kids twice in this age group over a short period of time, what effects does that have?" said Kinkade.
"And there are hundreds and hundreds of research articles in that area that show that there problems with social problems, emotional well-being, psychological well-being and academic declines. And that's consistent."
Kinkade strongly believes moving children in Grades 5 and 6 could be detrimental to their academic future. She says she's not convinced the board has considered all of the factors involved.
"There's a wide range of things that when you know what is happening at that age, you say, 'This makes them particularly vulnerable at this age," she said.
"So, the concern, the opinion that it's OK to move Grade 5 and 6 students because its easy for them to take the longer bus ride is really a superficial analysis of what's going on. So I think you have to consider much more factors than just this issue about transportation."
Kincade says she submitted her research to the CBE before this decision was made, but she is not convinced it was even looked at.
Appeal to the CBE
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Letter from the CBE
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