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Central transition would strengthen community: DSBN

An all-French immersion school in Grimsby would eliminate transitions and strengthen the community, say District School Board of Niagara officials.

During a public forum held March 4 at Central Public School, many parents expressed concern over the DSBN’s proposal to convert Central into a French immersion only school. English students from Central would be transferred to Lakeview School.

“One of the biggest concerns is that some parents felt this would be tearing a community apart. As much as we understand that, it is just 1.3 kilometres away,” said DSBN Trustee Cheryl Keddy Scott.

She said the schools would continue to work together for the best interest of the students.

“We feel this is going to make the community stronger, and eliminate the transitions,” she explained.

Keddy Scott stressed that no decision will be made until the DSBN board meeting next Tuesday, March 25.

At the public forum held on March 4, many parents claimed they were left in the dark throughout the process.

Teachers, staff, and the board have been discussing the proposal, and letters have been sent home with information about the process with contact information for any concerns.

Keddy Scott explained the board had to wait until after registration before they considered the proposal.

Once the numbers came in so high for the French immersion program, the DSBN decided to go ahead with the proposal.

“We had to wait until registration to see what would be viable. Then we saw the numbers coming in and it was phenomenal how many students want to be in the French immersion program,” Keddy Scott said.

A letter was sent home explaining the proposal and then a second letter was sent home prior to the public forum, she noted.

Keddy Scott said board and staff have been open and transparent throughout the process, meeting and talking to parents throughout.

She said the all-French immersion school would be a positive change for the community and this type of action could ensure facilities are not closed entirely.

Parents also had concerns priority may be given to the French immersion school, which parents noted is not part of the board’s core mandate, rather an optional programming choice.

Keddy Scott ensured this is not the case.

“It’s the parent’s prerogative to choose French immersion or English. We stand behind every program we offer,” she said.

Central School was an English only school, and then the French immersion program was piloted.

“We had no idea it would take off the way it did,” she said.

DSBN superintendent Kelly Pisek said many parents have expressed support for this proposal.

“We have had a number of parents indicate that this is something they support because it will minimize the transition process,” she said.

Nobody is happy with change, but they understand the process and what the board is working toward, she added.

The growing number of students registered in the French immersion program has been an issue for a number of years.

“If this moves forward, the logistics of transportation and daycare will be promptly addressed,” Pisek said.

She noted the distance between the schools is 1.3 kms, which does not normally require a bus, but since there is a highway overpass and safety is a concern, the DSBN  will ensure that the students are bussed.

“Another issue parents raised was children being separated from their friends. It’s important to note the schools are so close together and we encourage them to come up with a transition plan together,” Pisek said.

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