Call it the Great Divide — the emotional rift at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School that was the byproduct of attempts to reach a consensus to ease severe overcrowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.
And the unanimous decision this past Tuesday to proceed with the Thames Valley District School Board’s preferred option of busing students to Port Stanley will not quickly heal the wound.
Referred to as Option 1, the plan entails moving French Immersion and Extended French students in Grades 7 and 8 to Port Stanley Public School, beginning in September.
It was the recommendation of senior TVDSB administrators and will transform Pierre Elliott Trudeau school into a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility for the time being.
In a discussion Thursday with Kevin Bushell, TVDSB manager of facility services, he explained the goal is to keep a cohort of students together.
By that, Bushell stressed the importance of “keeping the Grade 7 and 8’s together and not splitting them between two schools . . . And we couldn’t get a large number for kindergarten to Grade 8 for French Immersion in Port Stanley so we would have small class sizes, split grades and small cohorts of students.
“Where if you move the Grade 7 and 8’s together, they go as a peer group. And administratively, that is why we were supporting Option 1.”
Additionally, resources are not split between the two schools, Bushell added.
“You don’t have to have a set of text books at Pierre Elliott Trudeau and a set in Port Stanley. All the resources (including teachers) can move with the kids. It really wasn’t about busing or transportation.”
Bushell conceded, however, there is a downside to this undertaking.
“You can potentially split siblings. Where with a family, one would be going to Pierre Elliott Trudeau and one to Port Stanley. And that was a consideration that weighed heavy on the minds. But you would have to do that split anyway after Grade 8.”
This is all a short-term fix, so what is proposed in the long term?
“How we solved this problem in London is using a school that has been closed because of enrolment and consolidation of schools. We re-purpose a school for French Immersion, that’s a logical approach to this.
“The ministry is on record as saying they will not commit capital funding to construct French Immersion accommodations, so we would not be able to apply to get a new school built for French Immersion or additions. Our only option is to create a second site, looking at potential consolidation of schools on regular track and look at re-purposing a school. And that wins in both cases.”
In the case of St. Thomas, Bushell noted that would likely mean locating a possible second French Immersion facility in Elgin county.
“Because we have done so much accommodation planning in the City of St. Thomas, we don’t have any real candidates in the city to consolidate. The logic would be potentially trying to find a school in the county somewhere where we do have declining enrolment.”
At best, such a move is at least two years down the road, Bushell stressed, but he added this caveat.
“I am not pre-determining any board decision. The board still has to debate and I don’t think the board should do any consolidation just to close a school for French Immersion. There has to be good and proper reasons to deal with the English population in the regular-track schools.
“The residual closure (of a school) is a byproduct of an accommodation plan that is supposed to be put in place for the other schools. This is not a foregone conclusion. It has to go through the process.”
A TOUCH OF CLASS
In their own quiet way, you know Sandra and Lance could not be more proud of their daughter, Rachel McAdams.
Even after Thursday’s announcement Rachel had been nominated for an Oscar for her role in Spotlight, they maintained their honest, humble approach to life.
And perhaps, as one poster to the Times-Journal Facebook page observed, that upbringing is what ensures Rachel’s photograph is not plastered beneath trashy headlines.
“Of course you’re proud and you’re pretty excited for her, but she works so hard on a daily basis on everything she does,” proud dad told the T-J on Friday.
“So it’s recognition she gets that is well deserved. I don’t think she ever expected it would amount to this.”
You gotta know there will be a whole lot of people back home cheering her on when the winners are announced Feb. 28.
And regardless of the outcome that evening, Rachel will always be a winner. Just too bad you can’t catch the flick in her hometown. A series of special screenings would sure be appreciated . . . and well attended.
Queen St. residents Carrie and Gerry Smith have diligently forwarded correspondence this way as they slog through the quagmire known as courthouse area parking regulations.
Most recently, they pointed out the clear-as-mud signage which noted 10-hour parking, but only for neighbourhood residents.
Signs that numerous lawyers and health care workers ignore.
“I have noticed also that your bylaw officer is almost nonexistent around our neighbourhood anymore, does the city still have a bylaw officer?” writes Gerry.
To which Coun. Joan Rymal replied, “The 10hr parking signs were removed last week at your request, so that was some progress with your issues.”
Progress only if the existing parking regulations are enforced on a regular basis. Turning a blind eye to the problem is not the same as solving it.
In the latest email to David White, the city’s manager of roads and transportation, Gerry advises, “I have told you about this person parked on our street at least 30 times now and you still do nothing about it … Can you tell me why this person is not told she can’t park here every day?”
Your tax dollars hard at work.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“If I can skate like her with a stick in my hands, I might be getting an Oscar as well.”
Hockey aficionado and proud parent Lance McAdams reflecting back on daughter Rachel’s accomplishments, including achieving her gold standard in dance as a figure skater while attending Central Elgin Collegiate Institute.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to email@example.com.Follow @ianscityscope