Some parents in Winnipeg's Charleswood neighbourhood voiced their anger at school officials over a plan that may see their children going to a different school.
The Pembina Trails School Division is running out of classroom space at École Dieppe School's French immersion program.
Starting in 2016, officials plan to move the elementary school's Grade 5 and 6 students to École Charleswood School, a junior high school located about one kilometre east along Roblin Bouelvard.
Nearly 300 parents attended a meeting with division trustees on Wednesday evening to discuss the changes.
While parents demanded answers, division officials did not offer an "open mic" style of meeting. Instead, parents were invited to meet in small groups with trustees.
"This whole meeting tonight, I honestly feel, has been structured to keep us quiet," said Jennifer Stefanec, while other parents applauded.
Stefanec said she wasn't happy with how the school division broke the news about the changes — in the form of a note that was sent home with students.
The division should have notified parents of the decision through registered mail, she said.
Parents still took to the floor when the small groups broke up, with some grilling trustees with their concerns.
Some fear 'bad influences'
Parents like Michael Kohut, who has a daughter in Grade 3 at Dieppe, have expressed concerns about sending their children to a school with older students.
“Because we're putting kids that are in Grade 5 and Grade 6 with kids that are in Grades 7, 8 and 9 already, and there's bad influences, there could be kids growing up faster than we expect," he said.
Kohut also said there is a concern with the number of cars around the junior high school, while other parents said more fencing should be put around the school to better accommodate the younger students.
“As parents, we're a little bit concerned about their safety, especially. The school [Charleswood School] has to actually improve the parking flow [and] the traffic is really bad around that area,” he said.
Kerri Theobald, whose daughter is in Grade 1, said she's also worried about her child going to school with much older students when she reaches Grade 5.
"Obviously my biggest concern, having a sensitive little girl, is her exposure to Grade 9 students," she said.
Pembina Trails superintendent Ted Fransen said the changes are necessary because of the growing demand for French immersion schools in the Charleswood area.
The Manitoba government's cap on kindergarten to Grade 3 classes doesn't help, either, he said.
"We have one Grade 6 class graduating from École Dieppe this year, and for the last three or four years we have had three kindergarten classes in each of those years," he said.
Another issue raised by parents is the absence of a playground at the junior high school, but Fransen said that will be addressed.