Of Mark Twain and the London-centred school board


 city_scope_logo-cmyk“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities.” That’s an observation from David Thompson, chairman of the Near North District School Board in Ontario, gleaned from a St. Thomas & District Chamber of Commerce news release calling for a moratorium on school closures.
At the May 6 Ontario Chamber of Commerce convention in Sarnia, member chambers adopted a resolution “supporting a moratorium on closures and for organizations including the Chamber to be engaged by the school boards to consult economic impact.”
In St. Thomas and Elgin, the Thames Valley District School board will decided later this month on a proposal to close schools in Sparta, New Sarum, South Dorchester and Springfield. Sparta would be the first to close and then be re-purposed as a second French Immersion school in Elgin.

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A temporary fix for a long-term headache


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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. Continue reading

In this case, one option does not fit all


city_scope_logo-cmykAs touched upon last week in this corner, senior administrators at the Thames Valley District School Board are recommending Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School become a senior kindergarten to Grade 6 facility, effective next July.
Under this proposal, French Immersion students in Grades 6-8 and Grade 7 and 8 Extended French students would attend classes in Port Stanley Public School.
This past October, the TVDSB presented six new options to parents and you have to ask does this proposal reflect popular opinion in the school community?

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Psst, need a courthouse parking permit?


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Seems there is a flourishing black market in St. Thomas that — surprisingly — does not involve sex, drugs or rock and roll.
The hot commodity is permits that allow you to park free of charge on residential streets adjacent to the consolidated courthouse on Wellington St.
The misuse of the permits prompted Queen St. resident Gerry Smith to vent his frustration in an email. He alleges the worst miscreants are lawyers and CAS workers, some visiting from London.
Gerry explains, “These parking passes are issued to people that live in the courthouse area for visitors, I have confronted many people that are parking in front of our house and they tell me they have borrowed the pass from a friend so they can park on our street.
“I have sent the mayor and (city manager) Wendell Graves hundreds of photos and emails since the courthouse opened and they of course have done nothing.” Continue reading

Over-capacity and under-used, aye there’s the rub


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A special meeting of council on Tuesday which included invited officials from the Thames Valley District School Board did little to heal the great divide in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School community.

In fact, if anything, the rift has widened.

The tone was established early when manager of facility services Kevin Bushell admitted the board “mis-read the community” when dealing with overcrowding at the French Immersion school.

He then announced — and which was confirmed later that evening at the scheduled board meeting in London — an area attendance review would be undertaken beginning in the fall to be completed before the end of the year.

So, there will be no busing of senior students from the school to Port Stanley Public School to deal with severe over-crowding at the former Homedale Senior Elementary School. Continue reading

No portage for les Voyageurs this year


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The overwhelming success of the French Immersion program at Pierre Elliott Trudeau school is to be admired.

The downside of that success is severe overcrowding at the school, which has resulted in what can only be called a great divide.

The rift in the school community over busing 240 students to Port Stanley to relieve pressure on a school that is literally bursting at the seams.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Thames Valley District School Board, a recommendation was made to put on hold for a year the busing plan while a full attendance area review be completed this fall. Continue reading

French Immersion overcrowding an issue in Elgin since 2013


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The ‘re-designation’ of 240 students to Port Stanley Public School was one of several short-term solutions considered, advises a member of the school council at Pierre Elliott Trudeau French Immersion School.

And one of the options would have seen those students returning to Wellington Public School, where most of them attended prior to the opening of their new home in the former Homedale Senior Elementary School.

It’s a possibility that may yet see the light of day, advises St. Thomas CAO Wendell Graves.

“Anything is possible,” Graves says. “One of the committees of council relates to the courthouse/Wellington block area and they have met a couple of times to work through a couple of potential strategies for that Wellington block which Algoma (University) will be done with at the end of the school year.

“We’re also going to be setting up a council/Thames Valley District School Board liaison meeting where we want to talk about some common issues in the city so that would be one that is on our agenda to talk to them about in terms of French Immersion.” Continue reading