The Times-Journal has referred to it as The Great Divide: the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that is the result of a school board decision to bus more than 200 students to Port Stanley Public School in the fall due to overcrowding at their home school.
Only 30 or so parents attended a January forum held by the school council to propose options to alleviate the crush of students at the former Homedale Public School.
The population at the school has swelled from 494 students in 2010 to 780 in 2014.
While parents on one side of the debate stress the need to make the transition to Port Stanley as seamless as possible, parents opposed to busing students out of St. Thomas fear an “identity crisis” will result in September.
Two follow-up meetings have since been held and, sadly, no more than 50 people have attended either think tank session.
One common concern put forward by the opposition camp is the lack of communication on the part of the Thames Valley District School Board regarding the proposed solution to overcrowding.
Posted on the school website are a series of questions and answers, with these two queries typical.
“Why weren’t the results of the initial parent meeting communicated better to parents so that parents could respond to the suggestions before presenting anything to the board? Were the school council proposals properly representing the Trudeau community?
In part, the board’s response is as follows:
“The decision to address the capacity issue at Trudeau was not the school council’s, but a decision of the board administration made in response to ongoing issues at the school related to capacity.
“The parent session in January was organized and supported through the school council and information inviting parents was sent via school e-news several consecutive weeks in advance, in addition to the social network promotion used by the school council.
“This meeting came about through concerns raised by many parents about serious issues caused by the over-capacity at the school. The board agrees with the parents that there are many issues related to capacity and many of them are serious and pressing. In addition, based on registration demand, the problem continues to worsen.
“The communication home to families about the information meeting was done via e-news. The messages about the meeting were sent for several weeks in advance and were received by over 400 e-mail addresses. In addition, the school council used their Facebook access to make further contact with homes. The e-news provided a link to the school site where summary detail of the discussions was posted.
“The meeting was intended to provide an opportunity for the parent community to provide input and clarity to what they saw as the challenges the capacity issue is causing and to brainstorm ideas that could be put into place in the short-term and to look at longer term solutions.
“There was no voting and or decision-making that took place at this meeting. The intention was to provide information to the board.”
Parents on both sides of the debate are passionate in their beliefs and clarifications and reassurance may be forthcoming at a meeting to be held between noon and 2 p.m. today in the Carnegie Room at St. Thomas Public Library.
Elgin school trustee Chris Goodall will be in the hot seat at that time.
WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
In an interview with T-J reporter Eric Bunnell on Friday, Coun. Linda Stevenson said she was surprised at the tone of a letter from St. Thomas Cemetery Company lawyer Donald Ferguson.
The letter served notice on city hall the company would no longer be able to operate West Ave. Cemetery after April 30.
“The tone of the letter was an ultimatum,” charged Stevenson. “I was a bit disappointed.”
Uhh, the letter was from a lawyer concerning a rather serious legal matter. Did you think it would read along the following lines:
“Dear mayor and council: St. Thomas Cemetery Company finds itself in a bit of a sticky wicket here and if it would not be too much of an inconvenience, could you perhaps see your way to lend us a bit of a hand.”
Oh my goodness.
The $59,000 cemetery grant has degenerated into a totally avoidable debacle.
The backpedalling by certain members of council began last week and watch for it to continue.
And there is one question yet to be answered by anyone on council.
If there were concerns about how manager Lesley Buchanan and St. Thomas Cemetery Company ran their operations, why was there no city rep. on the board of directors for the first time in 25 years?
“I’ve had questions in the legislature over the availability of doctors,” Yurek pointed out. “This government has imposed a contract on doctors in January and at the end of the day it actually affects where doctors can practice in this province.
“If your area is deemed not under-serviced, then doctors cannot join the family health units,” Yurek continued. “The new crop of doctors coming out of graduation are all trained to work in family health teams.
“So their push is to move doctors up north, however Southern Ontario is going to face the brunt of it because we are short of doctors. Elgin county is short of doctors and we have a number of doctors who are retiring in the next three or four years. It’s going to be tough going forward.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The staff of my client simply does not cut the grass at the cemetery, as some members of Council would believe. In fact, there are fairly significant obligations imposed on my client through provincial legislation.”
Lawyer Donald Ferguson in a letter serving notice on city hall regarding operations of St. Thomas Cemetery Company.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow @ianscityscope