By Greg Bobinec on January 14, 2021.
Lethbridge School Division’s boundary review committee has finished preparing recommendations for the Board of Trustees and the community to see the changes in boundaries throughout the city.
In west and south Lethbridge, elementary, middles and high school boundaries are set to change. In north Lethbridge, only elementary school boundaries are set to change. Lethbridge School Division says even with the new school developments, west Lethbridge is close to or already over capacity.
“What the boundaries changes have to do with is buildings and spaces and where are our demographics,” says Cheryl Gilmore, Lethbridge School District 51 Superintendent.
“The board has been advocating for the last five years for a west-side school. We had Coalbanks Elementary School built and we were hopeful at that time that it would accommodate that growth on the west side and it hasn’t, so all of our west schools are close to or already over capacity. What happens when there is over-capacity at a school, you push the boundaries of that classroom and the classes get larger.”
The additional elementary school on the south side did create new spaces, and although the need for classroom space is still needed and being worked on, the boundary shift will allow a buffer for the division to grow, without disrupting students’ educational experience with overcrowded classrooms and less personal attention.
“We now have space on the south side thankfully with Dr. Robert Plaxton elementary school, and rather than having no places to put the students and teachers in reasonable sized classes, we have to take a look at moving students to where there are spaces,” says Gilmore. “Certainly we know there will be continued growth on the west side. We know that on the south we are good there for 10-15 years at least, we are good on the north side for capacity, but this will give us a good buffer.”
The four-year transition for the boundary changes will not affect current high school students, rather current Grade 8 students entering Grade 9 in the fall. West-side students will be bused to LCI in south Lethbridge.
“We do have a hard-line expectation of the students on the west side who are being transferred to LCI in the fall, so that is going to be a gradual change over the next four years. Over the fall of 2021, new-to-Grade 9 students will be bused from the west side to LCI, and that will grow in tandem over the next four years until 9-12 are then moving to the west side,” says Christine Light, chair of the Board of Trustees.
“To parents that are feeling exasperated and stressed, I just want them to know that we are compassionate to that. We understand, and we see that these were not easy decisions to make and these were not going to be decisions that were easily accepted and some parents are affected more than others, but we are making them in the best decisions of our students.”
With the recommendations being presented, Lethbridge School Division recognizes the challenges this could create for some students and families. Gilmore says there is a form for parents to request which school their child goes to, with the exception that Chinook High School is full.
“I encourage parents to look at the Q&A on the website. One of the questions is about making a different choice than the attendance boundary that my student is attending, and the answer to that with one exception is that through the process of accessing the School Choice Policy and that is on the website,” says Gilmore.
“The School Choice Policy says that if there is room at another school and if there is the program at another school then the parent would fill that out to request they go to that school. Transportation won’t be included, but if there is room then typically that request is accepted. The one exception is to the school choice, because it is already determined that there is no room at Chinook High School.”
Lethbridge School Division has opened up the next phase of its assessment with a frequently-asked-questions section on its website for parents to browse, as well as a feedback look for parents to engage with their feedback about the boundary changes directly with the district. They are also encouraging possible solutions to the trails and difficulties students will be facing with the changes, as collaboration between educators are parents is important in these changes.
Feedback and solution possibilities deadline for submission is Jan. 28, with the boundary review committee and Lethbridge School District making their final decision on new boundary lines expected in February.
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