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Meeting in the middle

A forum is being held Nov. 7 to discuss school configuration
Mission Public Schools

Students have been leaving the Mission school district since a middle school model was introduced three years ago, and school board trustees hope to find out why on Nov. 7.

Mission Public School trustee Jim Taylor said demographics show a migration away from the community, but the district doesn't have the stats to say it's because of the middle school.

Parents, teachers, students and other members of the school community are encouraged to attend the Nov. 7 forum to discuss concerns, raise questions and offer input about the middle school system.

The question being asked that evening is whether the current middle school model will continue, or if two secondary schools should be converted to middle schools, leaving one high school to look after students in Grades 10-12.

Under School District 75's current configuration, there are 12 elementary schools and three high schools. There are middle schools for Grades 7, 8 and 9 students within each secondary institution.

"It's a philosophical discussion," said Taylor."No details have been discussed by the board and it's no use looking at the financials until we know what people want."

Trustees will be there to listen, added board chair Edie Heinrichs. "We want to hear the positives and negatives."

Since the board was elected about two years ago, trustees have been inundated with concerns about having Grade 7 students in the same environment as Grade 12s.

In the 2012/13 school year, there were 782 Grade 7-12 students at Heritage Park Secondary, 1,078 students at Mission Secondary, and 823 students at Hatzic Secondary.

There are pros and cons, say the trustees.

Some teachers are in favour of the two middle school system because more programs can be offered to students in a larger setting, such as shop or advanced placement classes.

"Our current school system is spread out too much now," said Taylor.

Some people might favour the three high school system for simple reasons like keeping the mascots at each school, or parents wanting their children to graduate from the same school they did, added Heinrichs.

A moderator will keep the conversation flowing that evening and other forums will be organized, but trustees are hoping to get a good sense of the community's desire from the first meeting. Any decisions made will not affect the privately funded schools in this community.

The meeting will take place on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Heritage Park Centre, 33700 Prentis Avenue.