Saturday, January 24

PAC Update re: Enrollment and Space Issues


Our parent community remains very concerned about possible changes being proposed for Charles Dickens (Main and Annex) to solve enrollment pressures.

Thank you to all parents/guardians who helped move us forward over this past week. It’s been very stressful for all involved - much has transpired in a short time. Thanks also to everyone who attended the meeting on Tuesday at the school and/or the VSB Committee II meeting on Wednesday.

In addition to the email letter update provided on January 22 from the school, we wanted to share more information with you:

You will likely have noticed from your own conversations this week that not all parents necessarily agree with each others’ perspectives; each and every parent is looking for answers on how this issue will affect them and will advocate for what they believe is best for their family.

At this time, the PAC Exec is aware and understands there are parents who do not agree with our recent communications or the petition we circulated on Wednesday morning, or the position we took at the VSB meeting. Emotions are running high among parents/guardians and staff at both sites. It is crucial though that we all understand the facts, issues and outcomes.

The PAC represents and supports several parent/guardian groups at both the Main & Annex. It will not serve us well as a community to be divisive; this may hurt our ability to advocate strongly to the VSB for the best possible long-term sustainable solutions.

There are many groupings within the context of the enrollment and space issues, and of course there are also the teachers who are another group. We’ve noted these groupings below, and included a few facts which were shared at Tuesday’s meeting:

1.    Parents of in-catchment children at both sites (over 600 students)
These numbers fluctuate annually due to non-school factors. There is usually an attrition of +/- 10% of Kindergarten registrations before the new school year begins. There is historically +/-10% attrition at the 5th grade as children move to special programs such as French immersion.


2.   Parents of out-of-catchment children at the Main (90 students)
For many years, enrollment in Vancouver had been falling. This means schools would take all student registrations regardless of location. As noted in the letter from both the school and the PAC earlier, there are many factors which have resulted in the enrollment issue now facing us. The VSB considers students in enrolling classes in and secure. Of the 90 students, 71 are in the intermediate grades and by the start of 2016/17 school year, almost all will have moved into high school.


3.    Parents of in-catchment children who are enrolled for Kindergarten (GrK) for September 2015 (currently at 47 applications)
With the Enrollment Management Plan, all schools have a capped sustainable number of GrK students they can accept. Current registration closes on Jan 31. The number of registrations received to-date for the 2015/16 school year are within Dickens’ sustainable range. The 17 children from the Annex moving over to the Main has no affect on any GrK registrations.


4.    Parents of children in the ELAC class (14 students, half are in-catchment)
For the VSB, this is a District class and follows a unique set of criteria and policies. They have stated for 2015/2016 ELAC will remain as it is. They have also stated that by 2016/17, 11 of the students will have moved to high school, with only 3 remaining (who are all in-catchment students). New students will be admitted during this intervening time but they are being informed of the current issues at hand.


5.    Parents of out-of-catchment children at the Main, with a sibling(s) who may or may not get into Dickens and/or who may have already been turned down last September
They fall into the lottery for registrations, behind in-catchment children, even though they have a child(ren) at the Main.


6.    Parents of out-of-catchment children at the Annex now grandfathered into the Main (40 students)
Please note that any Annex out-of-catchment children transferring to the Main over the next three years does not affect the number of in-catchment GrK students that can be accepted (GrK registrations are capped for sustainability – see 3. above). And per the Committee II Report, “It should be noted that staff and some parents have expressed significant concern about the possibility of having to adjust the multi-age model currently in place at Dickens Elementary. Fear has been expressed that allowing the out-of-catchment Annex students into Dickens Elementary will somehow destroy the school’s ability to organize in a multi-age format.  That is not accurate.”


7.    Parents who live in-catchment with children due to come to Dickens in September and/or beyond
The number of students is unknown.


Tuesday’s Emergency Parent Meeting at Dickens

We had over 85 parents/guardians present, representing both sites. The tone was positive – people listened generously and there was a sense of community. By the end, parents were better informed and were offering to act quickly given the PAC was only invited that day, to present to the VSB the following day.

A small group from both the Main & Annex created a petition for parents/guardians to sign on Wednesday morning and posted a letter to the PAC Blog for parents to send to VSB Trustees - this was the true Dickens spirit at work! The Trustees informed us that they received several letters. While we also gathered over 200 signatures at both sites, we had no need to bring this forward to the VSB during Wednesday’s meeting.

The other outcome of the meeting was the idea to create a PAC led sub-committee of parents/guardians who are interested in helping to do the “heavy lifting” with us to get ready for our presentation to the VSB’s Committee at a future date (hoping for an appointment in April*). Parents can help with tasks, brainstorming etc. during the day or evening - the more brains the better! Some parents have already volunteered to work on this committee. If you'd like to join the PAC led sub-committee, please email dickens.pac@gmail.com


Wednesday’s VSB Committee II Meeting

The PAC Chairs met with VSB senior staff on Monday, and were informed Tuesday that the PAC Exec was added to the Committee II agenda for Wednesday to make a presentation.

This was to be the PAC presentation, separate from the Annex OOC group. Our position for this meeting was to get the VSB to split the two decisions (Annex grandfather distinct from space/enrollment issues) as we had not been given sufficient time for parent consultation. We were successful in the request for splitting and delaying, and the Annex parents were also successful. Per the letter from Anna Maria today, our parent community now has the time needed for consultation, dialogue and the ability to suggest sustainable solutions. 

*We are awaiting a date from the VSB on which we will be asked to present - we have asked for a time in April due to the March spring break.

We strongly encourage you to read the following documents (click on the links) and become more familiar with the facts:

·      PAC Chairs presentation to Committee II - http://goo.gl/w5oaeK

·      Annex Parents’ presentation by Maggie Milne to Committee II - http://goo.gl/uQAFVj

·      Parents’ support for the Annex delegation by Christy Thomas to Committee II - http://goo.gl/c2SWk8

·      Committee I Minutes - http://goo.gl/GAtSqu

·      Committee II Report* (still to be revised) - http://goo.gl/FAJqNf


Next Steps

As decisions on space and enrollment issues have been deferred, no decisions have been made to date, other than the Annex grandfathering. So the five proposals in the Committee II Report* are still on the table, and are all up for discussion.  

While the impact of space and enrollment issues will not be immediately felt, not until 2016/17 or the school year after, the VSB is conscious that time is needed for consultation and that adequate time is required to put any decision(s) into action.

As we obtain more information within the next week or so, we will update you on that and the next steps for our sub-committee. If you wish to volunteer for the PAC led sub-committee in the interim, please email dickens.pac@gmail.com


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