Friday, March 6, 2015

Earl Grey School: The inconvenient reality of resistance

Boy am I getting frustrated by this whole school swap stuff. I wrote about it before when I posted an open letter to the Winnipeg School Division and Trustees petitioning against a school swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye.

Since writing that letter, I have become increasingly frustrated as opposed to feeling better about the situation. Part of the reason is social media interactions with some of the LaVerendrye parents pushing for a school swap. Now, I get where they are coming from. Their kids are in a school that is no longer meeting their needs. They have run out of space. I got that. They are losing programming because of space issues. Again, I got that. I do feel for them, I really do. They have a tough situation there, and it needs to be fixed. And it sound be fixed. It has to be fixed.

However, there is this single minded obsession with some that the full and complete answer to their problems is to have a school swap with Earl Grey School. There is this perception that Earl Grey is a giant school that is half empty, and so they want it, come hell or high water, and want it for September 2015! Well, for starters, no the school is not half empty. Somewhere along the line this figure of a 600 kid capacity has come about which is an outdated and inaccurate number of kids that can fit into Earl Grey School. Yet, this seems to be the figure that people are sticking too. We are seen as a school with a population of somewhere around 230 hogging a school that can hold 600 kids. Well, no, it can't hold 600 kids and if LaVerendrye does succeed in pushing us out of the school, they will quickly find that their 360 students won't have space coming out of their ears either.

Apparently, LaVerendrye is a growing school. It is a school in demand. Lovely. I'm glad they are successful. However, if it is this great growing school, how long before the Earl Grey School site is no longer adequate for their needs. I would say much sooner than later. Plus, heck, Earl Grey is growing as well. This seems to be forgotten about. Putting Earl Grey into a small school when it is growing doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like if I were to buy skinny jeans and eat a cake everyday for breakfast. This is a pretty good reason right there to open a second French milieu school (the format of LaVerendrye) that would allow their programs to grow, not just in our community but the whole city.

What is bothering me the most is the lack of empathy or understanding coming from the LaVerendrye folks. I shouldn't paint all of them with the same brush. There is a certain core of determined folks that want Lav to move to Earl Grey and they want it done by September 2015, and they ain't stopping til they get that. And, they really don't seem to care about the Earl Grey folks in the slightest. What other parents there think I'm not sure. I'm only going by the most vocal who want a swap and only a swap, and they appear to have zero concerns about us, which is hurtful and concerning. I mean, come on, what are we, chopped liver? (I hate liver)

Even when presented with the reality that if Earl Grey moves to the LaVerendrye site, we will lose programming (Jr. High for starters), they seem to balk and either not believe or just completely downplay our legit concerns. Well, quite frankly, this isn't helping me have much sympathy for them. They want our school, bottom line, telling us how great this is for our community as a whole, and how a school is just bricks and it's all about the community. That's nice, but the Earl Grey COMMUNITY will actually be torn apart by this swap. That's the concern we have. Come on guys, respect and understand it, Is that too much to ask? We have legit concerns. We know we would lose our Jr. High. We know that the Early Childcare Centre cannot transfer over to Lav with us and therefore we have no clue what the future for that will be (other than the fact it looks bleak, at best). Our connection with the Earl Grey Community Centre, which so many kids rely on for lunch and after school programs is at risk. We do stand to lose a lot, and the LaVerendrye folks have to understand this. Heck, the Winnipeg School Division has to understand this. The people who are making decisions have to understand this. The WORLD has to understand this (the first priority for people in Syria I am sure).

What is particularly frustrating, as I go back and look at news articles about this topic, and even past Parent Council Meeting minutes is that Earl Grey was promised, and I emphasized PROMISED that there would not be a swap, that it was off the cards and a dead deal. However, here we are in March 2015, just months before a swap would happen, facing the very real possibility that a swap could take place. How did this happen?? Well, pressure from LaVerendrye parents happened, for starters. They have decided that of all the options available to us all, they want Earl Grey School and nothing can convince them otherwise. And now we have to go on the defensive to save our school, our programs and even jobs within the Earl Grey Community, and it has all kicked off within such a short amount of time. We are working with such little information about how this thing will work, and the full impact it will have on Earl Grey. What we already know about an impact is not overly comforting. We know we will lose in the end, and we haven't even gotten into some of the other impacts that we don't even know about yet.

Yet, it seems that some Lav parents have got this whole thing figured out, including how things will work with our day care and Earl Childhood Education programs, etc. Oh ya, the plans are all drawn up it would appear, just no one bothered to tell us. The question is, where are THEY getting their info from and at what point was anyone going to fill the Earl Grey folks in as to what was going to happen to us? It almost feels like some at Lav wanted to push this through with as little resistance as possible, keeping Earl Grey out of the loop for as long as possible as to not threaten their grand plans. I'm sure there will be many at Lav who claim this isn't the case, but it sure feels like it. And then, some want to say this is best for the community. Glad they have determined what is best for the community and that it is Lav parents having their way, and screw everyone else. Thanks for that. I didn't realize that is how a community worked. Learn something new everyday.

I can't take away the fact that they have good reason to do all of this. Yes, they have a huge overcrowding problem and they want a solution yesterday. Understandable. And there are solutions out there that would not impact Earl Grey, but they do not appear to be attractive to the Lav folks. Fine. Whatever. They want what they want. I can't fault them for that. They are doing what they feel they need to do for their kids. Well, guess what, we gotta do what is best for our kids as well. Our kids matter here just as much as theirs. We want the best possible outcome to give them the best possible future. If a school swap goes through, however, I don't believe that we are getting a good deal. I think we are getting a bad deal in fact. LaVerendrye is mad because they are losing programming. Fine. Understandable. Then why put Earl Grey in a position where WE lose programming?? What about our programming? Isn't it as important? To me it is. I want to see Lav kids have all the opportunities they can get. But I also want to see my kids have those same opportunities. So, it makes sense to come up with a solution that will ensure this. A swap does not. So, I don't have much choice other than to fight against a school swap.

I'm not fighting it to be a jerk. I'm not fighting because I dislike Lav and want to hinder their progress. I'm not fighting because I don't want Lav students to get the programs they need and deserve. I'm fighting because I know there are other alternatives that don't end up screwing Earl Grey in the end. Can anyone blame me? Can anyone blame any of the Earl Grey parents doing the same thing? I don't think so. Unfortunately, we have been given such a short time (a matter of a few months between being told this is now actually an option....well, not just an option, but the PRIME option, after we were lead to believe it was off the table) to fight for our school. This doesn't give much time to figure out what is going on, and with such scant info being given as to how this will all work (other than the guarantee that we LOSE Jr. High and that our Early Childhood Education programs are only licensed for the Earl Grey site meaning it might not be able to move with us, we lose our connection with the community centre we rely on, we lose space, etc) we've already been screwed and messed with and we haven't even got to the confirmation we will have a swap. 


  1. What solution do you propose?

    1. One that does not involve the complete dismantling of Earl Grey School. Possibly adding a dual track French/English program to Earl Grey, opening a second French Mileu school at another location. There are a number of options that have been proposed, but it seems that some LaVerendrye parents, and I emphasize SOME, not all, are fixated on the idea of a swap as the only solution. Not only is it not the only solution, it isn't even a solution. It destroys Earl Grey. And, it moves LaV into a school that might not suit their needs for long given the fact that they want to add a Jr. High program. Basically, of all the options available, a school swap is the most destructive.