Thursday, November 08, 2007

Susan Semonick On Schools - OPTIONS for South/Central Students - Due to Middle Schools Starting in 2008

Options for Students in the South/Central Area of Langley

Now that school reconfiguration in the South/Central Area is a done deal, some parents have decisions to make - and sooner than they think.

The reconfiguration is an opportunity for parents of those school communities that will be affected by the changes to come together, show leadership, model how to handle change with grace and optimism, and make the best lemonade they can when faced with a bushel of lemons.

The personal choices they will make will not be the same for each family, or even for each child in a family. However, those choices should be based upon the best information available to ensure that whatever the choice, it will meet the needs of each student.

Families in the Alice Brown Elementary catchment and those families currently living on the east side of the James Hill Elementary catchment will not have to worry about changing to a K-5 elementary as they will likely become part of a 8-12 secondary school catchment if the pending recommendations are approved.

To assist the rest of the parents who need to make a decision, here is some information for their consideration.

The technical considerations can be found in:
Policy #7008 – Attendance
Policy #5804 - Application to Enter Alternate Programs
Policy # 5018 – Special Education

Priority of Enrolment according to Policy #7008
Continuing students first, in the following priority
(i) continuing catchment area student
(ii) continuing non-catchment area student
(iii) continuing non-school district student

Then applications considered in the following order
(iv) a catchment area child who attended the school in the previous year
(v) a catchment area child
(vi) a non-catchment area child
(vii) a non-school district child

Provided deadlines and requirements have been met, each application will be prioritized according to the date and time the application was received for each category. Special programs within schools may have a separate enrolment capacity.

Key dates related to the policy #7008:

Immediate - Continuous intake of application at Board Offices for year one of district programs. However, parents must provide proof of residency in Langley before February 1 of the entry year and the child's age must be confirmed by birth certificate.

District Programs:

Early French Immersion Kindergarten
-Belmont Elementary
-James Kennedy Elem

Late French Immersion Gr.
-Six Alex Hope Elementary
-James Hill Elementary
-Parkside Centennial Elem

Langley Fine Arts Grade One
Langley Fundamental Elem. Kindergarten
Montessori Kindergarten Uplands Elementary

Application to other years of the above programs and to other alternate programs will be processed at the school site.

February 1, 2008 - Start date for schools to receive cross-boundary applications. (non-catchment and out-of-district students)
March 14, 2008 - Cross-boundary applications should be submitted by this date. After this date your request will be a late application.
June 15, 2008 - For those moving to a new catchment, last date for submission of new catchment area application in order to receive priority over non-catchment and out-of-district applications received before March 14, 2008. (Proof of residency is required)

Options for students and their parents:

• Attend local K-5 elementary school, then HDS and LSS
• Move into the catchment of a K-7 elementary or 8-12 secondary school in Langley
• Apply for cross-boundary enrolment in a K-7 elementary or 8-12 secondary school in Langley.
• Apply to a district program in a K-7 elementary school that is a feeder school to an 8-12 secondary in Langley. School-Based Programs may have separate enrolment limits.
• Enrol in U-Connect, Langley’s distributed learning program (currently K-10, but may change with demand)
• Apply for out-of-district enrolment in a Surrey school
• Enrol in other distributed learning provided by other districts
• Enrol in a private school, or home-school your child(ren)

A few things to keep in mind are:

• A decision about middle school configuration in the Aldergrove area has not yet occurred. There may be additional elementary school closures in this area and a change to K-5 elementary schools in this area as well.
• Enrolment and capacity figures for Sept 2007 are available at
• Most Surrey elementary schools have over 400 students. The closest small K-7 near the Langley/Surrey border is Sunrise Ridge. East Clayton is a K-3 primary school and Clayton Elementary is a 4-7 intermediate school – both are small.
• All nearby secondary schools in Surrey are large. The closest to the Langley/Surrey border are Clayton Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir, and Earl Marriott a little further south.
• Both the district Fine Arts program at Langley Fine Arts and the Fundamental program already have waiting lists.
• Distributed learning often requires much at-home parental support and/or a student’s ability to be an independent learner.
• The district has committed to implementing a middle school program. IF you trust that the district will do all they can to make it succeed because failure is not an option, then reasonably, your middle school child will be afforded an extra amount of attention in the next few years. Your feedback as a parent of a middle school student would be critical to the district and parents to come.
• Regardless of your school choice, the school administration and school staff can and likely will change during the course of a child’s attendance at any given school, even without reconfiguration; and gradually, so will its school culture.
• For those who are curious, the regulations for Policy 7002 state that:
enrolment of international students will be subject to space being available in the immediate and projected (2 years) future. New International students are not to displace within district students.
Individual Considerations
• How does your child deal with change?
• Would your child get lost in a large population?
• Would your child do well in making a host of new friends?
• Would your child enjoy the challenges/opportunities in a middle school? (Explorations, enhanced Fine Arts, sports, etc.)
• Is going to school with friends in the neighbourhood important to your child or is he/she comfortable in a variety of groups and has other social groups as well? ( eg. soccer, ballet, etc)
• Is it important for you and your child to have you involved as a parent in the school community and will you be able to do so at the school you choose (eg. travel time)?
• Would your child benefit from the leadership opportunities and emphasis on social responsibility at the middle school?
• Would your child benefit from the greater focus on early competency at the K- 5 schools?
For more suggestions, see my previous posting re: How to Choose a School

HD Stafford Transition Plan Suggestions

Centralized intake of cross-boundary applications from HD Stafford catchment students.This would eliminate the possibility of parents waiting in line at two schools and rushing to a third.Applications would be date and time stamped AND would be given priority over other out-of-catchment applications.
Grade 11 students at HDS

Grade 11 students at HDS must make known to the district their intention to stay at HDS for their graduation year by sometime early in the spring of 2008 (date yet to be set) so that the district can make plans. It will be interesting to see where the out-of catchment students currently at HDS will go. If parents of the grade 11 students are truly interested in the best interests of these students, they may wish to recommend to the entire graduating class that they move as a group to LSS. The students would have more opportunities there than at HDS, particularly those who wish to take Fine Arts courses, grade 11 courses, honours or other advanced courses, etc.Extra-curricular opportunities would be also available to them as they most likely would not be in an single grade configuration at HDS.

I do not know if they there would be enough interest to be able to field a grade 12 only girls basketball team, etc. The school district would likely not be anticipating this but with the proposed move of the Media Centre at LSS, there would be some additional room to accommodate the additional grade 12 students. They may have to add a couple of portables for one year only but the district did not seem to worry about cost when they made the middle school recommendation so they shouldn’t mind now. They can also apply for cross boundary to any 8-12 school in the district.
Special Needs Students
Policy # 5018 – Regulations state:
Schools will develop transition plans for students with special needs moving from preschool to elementary school, elementary to secondary school and secondary to post secondary programs. Transition plans will also be developed for students with special needs transferring between programs, schools or districts.

Considerations for PACs

The reconfiguration of schools in the South/Central Area is also a unique opportunity for a large number of Parent Advisory Councils to come together to help each other out. There are a few issues with respect to PACs and the reconfiguration that could be better handled as a greater PAC community. In particular, PACs may wish to consider the redistribution of their Direct Access fund allocations which are based upon the previous year’s September 30th enrolment. K- 5 schools will be receiving funds for a grades 6 and 7 population they no longer have. HD Stafford and Langley Secondary will both receive an allocation of direct access funds that is far less than they could be receiving.

As part of bringing the community together, it may be useful for these PACs to hold off any budgetary decision regarding direct access funds that they anticipate for 2008/09. They may wish to discuss redistribution of these funds to “follow the students” to the schools that they will be attending and wait until the end of September 2008 when enrolment figures are finalized to redirect some of the Direst Access funds.

This may even be a good time for PACs to do an asset inventory. Elementary PACs may find that they have resources that are best suited for grades 6 –7 students that they may wish to pass on to the middle school. And, the same goes for the HD Stafford PAC which may have resources that may be better utilized by students in grades 9 – 12.

Undoubtedly, the school district will redistribute library resources and much more as necessary.
The Bottom Line
Parents need to do their homework and do what is in the best interests of each of their children.In the best interest of all students, everyone needs to do their part.
Dispelling Rumor
Some parents have heard rumors that principals have been told not to accept cross-boundary applications from HDS students - to find an excuse so that these students have to attend LSS or HD depending on the grade of the child. As far as I know, this is not true. It would be foolish of the district in an age of incredible access to information to do such a thing; after all, parents do talk to each other.

However, what may happen is that principals will be reminded of the regulations and be cautioned to wait until after June 15 before making any confirmation of enrollment. What has sometimes happened in the past is that because there is a fair amount of excess capacity at some schools, cross-boundary applications from new out-of-catchment and out-of-district students were processed and confirmed before June 15, which is the deadline for applications from new in-catchment students (move-ins). Remember that new in-catchments students have priority over new out-of-catchment and out-of-district students even if they apply between Spring Break and June 15. This year in particular, there may be a sudden, large influx of new in-catchment applications during this period, at schools outside of the HDS/LSS catchment area, if the rumblings from parents turn into action.

This is why the district should consider a central registration for cross-boundary applications for HDS students for this one year.

This is also why the HDS community should ask the district to immediately suspend any confirmation of enrolment for ISP students until all applications from HDS students are processed because it has been practice that once enrolled, even ISP students are considered “continuing students” and many of them have different school years and enroll “mid-year” of our school year.

This board of education has decided to displace at least 3,000 students, if not more. Are they not to ensure that these students have increased opportunities, not decreased? They have effectively taken a choice away and left them with something they do not believe in.

The question for parents is no longer whether the trustees have listened. It is now, have they been assured that the students’ rights have not been butchered in this process. If parents have difficulty about having appropriate plans in place for their child(ren) or ensuring due process, the BCCPAC Advocacy project is available as a resource. The provincial hot line is: 1-888-351-9834 leave a message and they will return your call.

This is an opportunity for the LSS community to show that they welcome the newcomers with open arms.

Respectfully submitted
Susan Semonick

No comments:

Post a Comment