Public feedback sought on draft school recommendations
Islanders can provide feedback on draft school review recommendations at public meetings beginning this week.
This third phase of consultation will provide the Public Schools Branch board of directors with public input on the draft recommendations before making final decisions. Islanders can provide their feedback to the board in person by booking a presentation at a public meeting through firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at Better Learning For All.
Following is the public meeting schedule:
• Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray families of schools – Wednesday, February 1, 7 p.m., Colonel Gray High School gym
• Kinkora family of schools – Thursday, February 2, 7 p.m., Kinkora Regional High School gym
• Montague family of schools – Tuesday, February 7, 7 p.m., Montague Regional High School cafeteria
• Morell family of schools – Wednesday, February 8, 7 p.m., Morell Regional High School cafeteria
• Westisle family of schools – Thursday, February 9, 7 p.m., Westisle Composite High School gym
• Storm dates – If meetings are cancelled due to weather, they will be rescheduled on February 13 and 14
The board wants to hear from as many Islanders as possible, including those for and against the recommendations. Participants are asked to indicate which recommendations they do or do not support and why, and suggest any alternatives to the recommendations.
Begun in October 2016, the school review is intended to improve learning for all Island students by achieving a more even distribution of both students and staff.
More than 200 written and online submissions have been received since the draft recommendations were released on January 10.
Backgrounders on the recommendations for individual schools are now available at Better Learning For All.
Purpose of the school review
School reviews are conducted regularly in most jurisdictions to ensure that education resources are being placed where they provide the best possible learning opportunities for students.
There are significant issues to be addressed in Prince Edward Island including: underused schools; overcrowded schools that cannot accommodate existing and projected enrollments; inconsistent class sizes and student-teacher ratios; inequitable access to programming; wide variances in cost-per-student; and outdated school zones that no longer represent today’s communities and where students are.
The review is based on a five-step process:
o Data collection and board direction
o Public consultations on viable options
o Board recommendations
o 60 days of public input
o Final decision
The review is now in its fourth phase, following the release of the draft recommendations on January 10, 2017. The 60 days of public input allows the board of directors to receive public feedback on the draft recommendations before making final decisions.
How may the recommendations improve learning and the use of resources?
A more balanced distribution of students and staff would reduce inequities and result in stronger, more viable schools that are better able to accommodate population shifts.
Government is committed to maintaining teacher positions. By achieving a more balanced distribution of students while maintaining teacher positions, there would be opportunities to improve the learning environment through:
• Better and more consistent student-teacher ratios
• More equitable access to academic programming
• Better and more consistent class sizes, and more capacity to address class composition
• More access to extra-curricular activities which are key to positive school culture
• Better access to student services critical to many students’ learning and well-being
Among the draft recommendations are proposals to address the under-utilization of schools in the southern part of Charlottetown and overcrowding in the north section which is seeing significant population growth.
There are recommendations to improve utilization of Charlottetown intermediate schools. Current enrolments range from 228 students at Birchwood Intermediate, to 541 students at Queen Charlotte, to 911 at Stonepark. Optimal intermediate school populations are particularly important because they support positive school culture, students’ sense of belonging and equitable access to curricular and extra-curricular activities.
Recommendations have been made to update many school zones that were established decades ago based on historical data, religion or outdated criteria. By updating school zones and eliminating dual zones, schools could be staffed more effectively and transportation could be provided more efficiently. Re-zoning would allow many students to attend a school closer to where they live, and result in more walkable hubs, fewer buses passing by schools, less time spent on the bus, decreased fuel costs and lower bus mileage.
Four of the five schools recommended for closure are operating at 25 to 43 percent of their capacity with enrollments ranging from 50 to 128 students. Amalgamating these schools with nearby schools would result in more viable schools and appropriate class sizes, as well as more access to teachers, programming and student support services. While the fifth school recommended for closure is larger, most of the students attending the school live in other school catchment areas.
There are also recommendations to create more access to programming, for example Early French Immersion would be made available at Alberton, O’Leary, West Royalty, West Kent, and Montague Intermediate schools.
Senior Communications Officer
Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture
902 314 5702