The much anticipated decision regarding the new Ward 4 high school was passed yesterday to a rather crowded room of residents after months of accommodation review committee meetings, letter/email campaigns and public outcry regarding the honesty and transparency of the process.
The community heard the board pass the Director’s recommendation but not before several trustees tried to slip in ‘recommendations’ for optional FI attendance.
Because these were presented only as recommendations and not motions, they are not binding but the public must be aware at any time trustees could bring forward a motion to allow optional attendance and/or flexible boundaries.
To many such a change would represent not only potential overcrowding for the English and mandated programming at the school but a complete disregard as to the wishes of the 75% mandated community.
The Director explained his rationale for changing the Option 5 that was presented by the BRC. He qualified his change that allowed FI years early if ‘numbers warranted’ (i.e. 2 classes existed) as being a product of the BRC recommendation. This explanation would seem important because the board has been publicly criticized not only from the community members but also BRC members themselves for misrepresenting their support regarding his changes as being their recommendation.
The BRC Superintend acknowledged last night that community members had contacted the board and/or him to voice their anger and that residents had asked for the Ministry of Education to conduct an investigation regarding the process itself.
For some residents, the board and FI trustees have again hijacked the process because FI could potentially go in years early if 2 classes exist. For some, however, they feel a temporary victory has been met because optional attendance was not part of the decision (at least for now).
In addition, the Palermo community was given the same protection that was afforded T.A. Blakelock and White Oaks – allowing grade 11 and 12 students to remain at their current schools until graduation. Although discussion from trustees centered around this being included only for consistency purposes, for many it needed to be included to afford this community the same consideration as others. Community members have been demanding the board revise Palermo Public School’s FI boundaries and enrollment imbalance forced on the new school after the Ward 4 trustee’s approved motion did not include any enrollment balancing protections. As such, many residents are particularly sensitive to the fact they feel completely unprotected regarding English/mandated programming. They felt their high school students had to be provided grandfathering protection just like the other two protected schools. Although Trustee Amos did insist on a specific amendment stating their grandfathering be included, the fairness of such an addition seemed to be lost on the crowd.
At the end of the day, the school will open, FI could go in early and yes, many still believe a FI supporting trustee will try to hijack the original BRC intended recommendation by motioning a measure allowing FI students outside the current boundaries to attend the school earlier, and Palermo high school students were afforded the same protection as everyone else.