School board now focused on Durieu transition plan

Transition planning began nearly immediately following last Tuesday’s decision by the school board to close Durieu elementary.The doors will shut at the small rural school, located northeast of Mission off Sylvester Road, by the end of June, but before then, Mission Public Schools District (MPSD) has a roadmap to make the transition “seemless” for students, staff and parents, said administrators.All 85 Durieu students now fall in the Hatzic elementary catchment area, and principals from both schools will begin meeting on a weekly basis starting this week, said Brenda Lightburn, deputy superintendent.The principals will jointly review how to move resources and personnel, and deal with any other problems that arise, she said.A letter was mailed out to parents last Wednesday which explained the decision to close Durieu, identified the new home school, introduced the new principal, assured parents records would automatically be transferred to Hatzic, and detailed how parents could apply for their children to go to another school if they so chose.Many letters didn’t arrive until Friday, said Durieu Parent Advisory Council vice-chair Tara-Lea Hehn, adding several parents are feeling left in the dark.“Everyone’s been in an uproar,” said Hehn. “Parents are still angry and confused. There was no damage control. There were kids with tears in their eyes the next day.”Little information has made it to students or parents, she charged. Many parents assumed they would hear from the school board last Wednesday, the day after trustees’ decision, which also included a vote to keep Deroche elementary open.But this delay is on purpose, said Graham Black, director of instruction for planning and policy with MPSD.“[The school community] has gone through a traumatic event,” he said. Administrators want to respect the turmoil the decision has caused and are working more “behind the scenes” at this point.“We still have a functioning school in Durieu. We want to make sure all activities — be it social, academic or athletic — continue on. We don’t want to disrupt everyone,” Black said.At Durieu, which became a traditional school in 2005, the dress code has been dropped.“The overall consensus is that we needed a transition time,” said Hehn. Parents are further upset by the fact they now need to spend hundreds of dollars on school clothes, and in Hehn’s case, an additional $420 annually for busing for her three children.