Trustees approve schools of choice

Traditional and fine arts schools now available in Mission

Mission students will have two more schools of choice to pick from for the 2013-2014 school year.

Mission school board trustees unanimously supported transforming Edwin S. Richards (ESR) elementary into a fine arts centre, but debated turning Hillside elementary into a Kindergarten to Grade 6 traditional school before it was approved by a 3-2 vote.

The change was aimed at keeping students in the Mission school district and preventing school closures.

Fifteen of the 23 empty classrooms in the urban area are at Hillside, ESR, and Windebank.

“The goal is to make three healthy, viable schools so the ministry won’t ask us to shut any down,” said board chair Edie Heinrichs.

Enrolment numbers support a traditional school at Hillside; and ESR, which has been testing an art-based curriculum since 2011, already has a waiting list.

There are 267 students registered for Hillside and 304 for ESR in September, said vice-chair Jim Taylor, who hasn’t seen the numbers for Windebank school yet, but adds Windebank would be the catchment school for any current Hillside or ESR students who don’t want to attend a school of choice.

“I see it as a positive change,” said Taylor, who offered an apology for the disruption and upheaval at Hillside during the process. “It makes us a stronger district.”

Trustees Randy Cairns and Carol Hamilton opposed the Kindergarten to Grade 6 traditional school model for Hillside because of the “rushed process.”

Discussions for a traditional school began last November, and Cairns would’ve preferred to start small, offering the traditional model to Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, then gradually growing the program.

Some parents feel they were not consulted, and were not able to present their concerns, said Cairns. “It’s wrong.”

“While I support choices for families, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of another group,” Cairns added.

About 50 parents attended the school board meeting Monday night at the former Fraserview elementary school to hear the trustees’ decision. Many parents backed the traditional school model as they held up signs of support.