Louis Riel school trustees approve St. Vital school swap

A Winnipeg school division has made what some parents in the city's north St. Vital area say is an unpopular decision: to make two schools swap buildings this fall.
Some parents at Hastings School are upset the Louis Riel School Division will have their children switch buildings this fall with students at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, the French immersion school next door. (Google Maps)

A Winnipeg school division has made what some parents in the city's north St. Vital area say is an unpopular decision: to make two neighbouring schools swap buildings this fall.

Trustees with the Louis Riel School Division voted on Tuesday night to have students and staff at Hastings School switch buildings with those at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury.

The two schools are adjacent to one another and share the same playground.

The swap aims to address student enrolment pressures at École Marie-Anne-Gaboury, a K-8 French immersion school.

Parents speak at a March 12 meeting at Hasting School about the school swap plan. (CBC)
Division officials say the school is at 105 per cent of capacity, with enrolment expected to keep growing, while Hastings is at 48 per cent capacity and has more space.

"This exchange of school buildings will address the enrolment challenges in these two schools and is the most sustainable, financially feasible and least disruptive option of any of the possible solutions we analyzed," Louis Riel superintendent Duane Brothers stated in a message posted on the school division's website.

But parents of children at Hastings — a K-8 English-language school — have opposed the swap, with some arguing that it's an unfair trade because Hastings has better and more accessible facilities.

"They looked at numbers, they looked at stats [but] they didn't look at individuals. I think that's the really tough part for a lot of the parents to take," said Stephen Maleck, who has children at Hastings.

"Every kid wasn't considered. You know, numbers were considered, groups where considered, but children in general, I don't think they were."

Other parents have accused the school division of not properly consulting them about the school swap.

"We don't feel that it was just a decision made last week, but that it was [a] decision made prior to even engaging our schools, and that was the issue," said John Whiting, a Hastings parent.

"We didn't really have the opportunity to help to collaborate with the division on reaching some better options."

Parents of École Marie-Anne-Gaboury students have expressed support for the school swap, citing the space constraints their children face in the current building.

Whiting and other concerned Hastings parents said they will now have to review options for their children.

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