South St. Vital school changes upset parents
Louis Riel School Division trying to fix French immersion school space shortage
Some Winnipeg parents are upset that their children's elementary school is becoming a French immersion middle school, displacing hundreds of students as a result.
Trustees with the Louis Riel School Division passed a motion on Tuesday night to change the format of George McDowell School, currently an English-language K-8 school.
It will become a single-track French immersion school for Grades 6 to 8, creating what officials say will be the division's first middle school.
But Louis Riel superintendent Duane Brothers said he knows the decision — and the trustees' unanimous approval — would not go over well with some parents, who have raised concerns that their children may have to attend school farther away from home.
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"We knew at the very beginning and, frankly, we know now that there is no perfect solution," Brothers said at Tuesday night's meeting.
"There is no solution that we are going to propose that is going to make every single person in this room happy."
The school division has been struggling with what it calls "unsustainable growth" at two of its French immersion elementary schools, École Julie-Riel and École St. Germain.
Officials have said both schools are already over capacity, and student enrolment is predicted to keep growing.
Trustees voted on Tuesday to reconfigure École Julie-Riel and École St. Germain, which are both currently K-8 schools, into K-5 schools.
'Significant impact,' says mom
Nearly 400 students are expected to be displaced at George McDowell School alone, worrying parents like Lorea Peterson.
Peterson said if her children are sent to another school, she won't be able to find child care for them.
"I've called all the daycares for all of the schools — Highbury, H.S. Paul, [Samuel] Burland, [Dr. D.W.] Penner — all of them are full to capacity. They have waiting lists that are two to four years long," she said.
Jennifer Johnson, who lives near École Julie-Riel, said her two children will have to take two city buses to get to George McDowell.
"The student pass, being roughly $600 a year, times two is about $1,200 for two children to transfer," she said.
"I'm disappointed, very disappointed. It's going to be a big deal for our family."
School division officials plan to have administrative changes in place by Feb. 4, and the transition is expected to be completed by Sept. 2.