A Feb. 5 summary of the Sechelt school capacity discussions to date showed many feel the addition of portables is the best option and moving Grade 7s to high school is the worst option for students.
School District No. 46 (SD46) has held around 20 public consultation meetings on the subject of overcrowding at West Sechelt Elementary School with parents, educators, staff and students.
While the school, built for 197, currently has 215 students, statistics show that things will get much worse by 2020 with a projected 298 students destined for the school.
SD46 superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking and secretary treasurer Nicholas Weswick presented public input on the issue to date at the final consultation meeting held Tuesday night at Chatelech Secondary School.
They showed what the community felt were the pros and cons of each of the five options presented to address the overcrowding issue.
The addition of portables had pros like ease and flexibility, keeping the school community together, limiting transitions for students and maintaining the kindergarten to Grade 7 model.
The cons included feeling isolated from the rest of the school, no bathrooms or water in portables and less space in the schoolyard.
Despite those cons, the portable option was identified as the preferred option by educators and the Sunshine Coast Teachers’ Association (SCTA), who also noted cross boundary transfers should be tightened and boundaries should be redefined.
Bocking said the portable option, if selected, would likely be used in conjunction with changing catchment areas to make a larger impact.
Changing catchment areas was presented as its own option, but Bocking said it would take too long to impact enrolment used independently.
Sending Grade 7 students in the Sechelt area to Chatelech Secondary came with one major concern from every group consulted- — safety.
“We certainly heard that regularly and loudly at every single presentation,” Bocking said.
The SCTA passed a motion against the idea, stating concerns about student social, emotional and physical development, the impact on student learning, teacher employment and student safety.
Those students consulted also noted they weren’t ready to transition into high school in Grade 7.
Another option given a no by most was making West Sechelt a kindergarten to Grade 2 school and having Grade 3 to 7 students attend Kinnikinnick.
Many said the change would split up families with siblings in different schools, create too many transitions and negatively impact sports teams.
“Some of the comments read ‘just plain no,’” Bocking said.
The final option to make West Sechelt Elementary a kindergarten to Grade 5 school and send the Grade 6 and 7 students to Kinnikinnick came with the pro that “only one school is affected,” but cons included creating a “top heavy” Grade 6/7 group at Kinnikinnick, too many transitions and splitting up families.
Bocking and Weswick will now compile all the comments into a report for the school board that will weigh the pros and cons and make a decision on what needs to be done later this spring.