Greater Victoria School District reviewing placement rules

Greater Victoria School District reviewing placement rules

The Greater Victoria School District is reviewing its enrolment criteria in an effort to deal with a growing student population.

The district has said it expects an increase in 2,000 students over the next decade.

A committee established by the Greater Victoria School District is currently looking at whether student enrolment priorities need to be revised so there is a higher priority for students living within a catchment area.

If the criteria are changed, students living within the catchment area of a school would have a high priority then over siblings of students who are currently enrolled. The new student enrolment priorities for registrations and transfer request would go like this:

1. Students who are currently enrolled in the schools, whether they live in the catchment area or not, get first priority.
2. Catchment-area students
3. Sibling of a student in attendance at registration time and in September of the next school year
4. A student not in the catchment area.
5. A student who does not reside in the school district.

Currently, siblings of students already attending the school are at a higher priority than catchment area students, although the district has usually been able to accommodate both in the past.

“We are at a point where we have to define the priority of which students get into the schools we have,” Piet Laangstraat, superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District, said.

Parents and students were surveyed online in March and April. According to the committee, the majority of parent respondents said a child attending a school in the catchment area was more important than siblings attending the same school at the same time. Students were also in the majority when it comes to favouring catchment areas.

Laangstraat said the committee will also be reviewing reopening schools and whether to expand French immersion programming since some of the enrolment pressure is being seen in those schools.

According to Laangstraat, an example of that pressure is a parent who wants all of their children to attend the same school, even if they live outside of the catchment area. At the same time, there might also be a new family who has moved into the neighbourhood who want their kids to attend that same school.

“It’s that notion of if there is one seat in that school, who should have access to that seat?” Laangstraat said.

Classroom sizes also have to satisfy the maximum size requirement outlined in the November 2016 decision. The ruling restored contract language from 2002 on class size limits, as well as the number of students with special needs and specialist teachers in a classroom.

Jason Gammon, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, said they believe parents should be able to send their children to the school closest to their home.

He also said the district should be looking at reopening closed schools sooner, saying this could ease the pressure on schools that are now open.

“The district is sort of dragging their feet on reopening schools,” Gammon said.

While the association will continue to ask for old schools to reopen by September, Gammon says the earliest reopening would probably be in 2018.

The committee’s recommendations were scheduled to be presented to the board at the end of June but Laangstraat said that timeline could change as they continue their review.

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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