Sunday, January 18

IMPORTANT MESSAGE - Response to school letter

PAC Follow-up to School Letter sent on Friday, January 16 2015

Our parent community is very concerned about possible changes being proposed for Charles Dickens (Main and Annex) to solve the enrollment pressures we continue to face.

Over the past years, enrollment at both the Annex and Main has steadily increased resulting in the challenges we are facing at this time. As a result, the VSB implemented a measure called the Enrollment Management Plan that essentially monitors our enrollment closely. Additionally, it changed the status of our Annex students from continuing cross-catchment to new applicants. However, this measure fails to address the unique relationship an annex has to its mother school. 

The interpretation of policy, practiced at Dickens for over 30 years, allows children enrolled in the Annex, including those who are cross-boundary, to transition over to the Main when they complete Grade 3. This was changed by the VSB last fall without consultation of the affected families. 

It should be noted that the restriction of the Dickens cross-boundary children transferring to the Main will not alleviate the stresses of increasing overall enrollment at Dickens and does not affect the number of in-catchment Kindergartens that can be accepted (it is capped for sustainability).

Your PAC supports ALL Dickens students and parents/guardians. 

Our goal is to ensure that all students are accommodated and not impacted by our space challenges and that Dickens families support each other while we advocate to find a solution together. It is our belief that the existing Dickens cross-boundary students attending the Annex should now be grandfathered in at the Main. Promises made to these families should be honored and the children should not be made to pay for poor planning on the part of the Ministry and the VSB.

It is important to note that no decisions have yet been made by the District or the VSB at this time. 

The enrollment crisis we continue to experience is symptomatic of bigger issues: 

We are experiencing chronic underfunding by the Ministry, and there is a city agenda to zone specific areas for densification without any provision for infrastructure to accommodate such rapid growth. The population in this neighbourhood is projected to continue to grow. As directed by the Ministry of Education policy, the VSB can only plan based on data reflecting current population numbers. Clearly this is short-sighted and damaging to the cohesiveness of any community and is the real problem that needs to be addressed! 

The PAC is now seeking clarification from the VSB and the Administration about the potential changes to multi-age classes as well as the possible changes to physical space at both schools. We will communicate our findings to parents via the PAC Blog and Parent Class Rep email communications.

It is our understanding that multi-age is not at risk at Dickens but that the high student enrollment may be accommodated by splitting age groups differently than they are today: e.g. shift Grade 4’s out of the 2/3/4 class groupings so that 30 rather than 24 kids can fill an enrolling class. Dickens parents feel very strongly that our multi-age groupings should not be threatened in any way and we want to be very sure that there is no threat in the proposal!

Reduction of library/open space:

We also feel that reducing library/open space to create extra classrooms is not a good solution in schools that have no other useable teaching or meeting spaces for larger groups of students. Staff and students utilize the library/open space at both the Main and Annex daily to meet, study, and learn. 

We are calling on all Dickens parents to mobilize quickly as any of the proposed changes will affect our entire community. There is much more at stake here than a group of students moving over from the Annex!

  1. Please take time to send an email to the VSB Trustees now and express your support for a sustainable and appropriate solution for our growing enrollment – the more we send the better: Email (Liaison Trustee) and copy (the assistant to our Director)                                                                  
  2. Attend our emergency PAC-hosted parent meeting on Tuesday January 20 at 6:30pm at the Main School. During this meeting we will try to gather more feedback and respond with information we have. Childminding will be provided.                                                                                         
  3. Attend the VSB Committee II meeting on Wednesday January 21 at 5:00pm. The more we show our support, the stronger our voice is collectively.
  • Committee II Meeting - Planning and Facilities Committee, Room 120 of the Vancouver School Board Education Centre, 1580 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC

Thank you,
Dickens PAC 

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