Saturday, March 7, 2015

Progress? Understanding between Earl Grey and LaVerendrye?

I know, I know, this blog of mine has become devoted to one topic lately, and it is the proposed swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye School. As an Earl Grey parent, I've been pretty consumed by this topic because it is going to directly impact the future of my children and all the kids they go to school with. So, it would be irresponsible for me to not take this seriously.

Today, I opened up twitter to find a rather well written blog by a LaVerendrye parent who I had previously seen on twitter who seemed to have little interest in the views or concerns of Earl Grey parents. I think we have made a break through. I think our speaking up has finally got through to Lav parents who are seeing that yes, we at Earl Grey have plenty to lose in this swap. It's becoming obvious that the Lav parents are starting to understand that we have to be worked with, not just pushed aside, that we shouldn't just be expected to roll over and accept this swap. So, I, personally, want to acknowledge this olive branch of sorts. I think it is a sign that we are making progress at least in mutual understanding. I don't think at any point Earl Grey families have not understood or acknowledged that yes, indeed, LaVerendrye has serious space issues at their school. They do. And they need help. So, now, I feel that there is at least mutual understanding across the board of what each side is facing. 

Does it change how I feel about the swap? No. I still feel that in the end Earl Grey has way too much to lose to not try and prevent a swap. I don't think that what we are doing at Earl Grey to prevent the swap is anything any other school wouldn't do. When faced with program loses and displacement, we, just as they are doing over at LaVerendrye, owe it to ourselves and our kids to stand up and do our best to preserve them, and I hope that the LaVerendrye folks see and understand this. No, it isn't personal. We are two groups with very different ideas trying to persuade a middle party that has to decide on this what the best route to take will be. Obviously, at Earl Grey, we are against a swap. We don't want it. We see there are other options and we encourage those to be explored. LaVerendrye, however, seems to have narrowed into one solution which is a school swap, which unfortunately is the option that is the most destructive to Earl Grey School. So, we must keep pushing forth, expressing our views, explaining why we believe that this is a bad deal, especially for Earl Grey.

ADDED SECTION: Because I keep getting questions about what exactly we will be losing, as if some LaVerendrye parents think this is going to be seamless and painless for Earl Grey, I will outline it here. First off, we LOSE our Jr. High programming. This seems to be heavily downplayed which is extremely frustrating. We have a 50 percent rise in applicants for our Jr. High next year, yet if it disappears, we have no actual catchment area and no guarantees on where exactly our kids will go to Jr. High, or any understanding of how transportation works. So, this is a huge, disruptive lost.

Furthermore, the Earl Grey Early Childhood Education programs are licensed ONLY for Earl Grey School. At the moment, they cannot move over to LaVerendrye, which means we lose them in our school. Some are downplaying this, saying that both Lav and Earl Grey are just blocks from each other. That's lovely, but at the moment, all we have been told is that we might have walking bus service between the two schools. We are talking about 5 year old kids walking back and forth between schools in Winnipeg's famously brutal winter. It is a large enough distance where this is just not acceptable.

Also, we have students who rely on the lunch and after school programs that are at the Earl Grey Community Center which is on the Earl Grey School site. We lose that connection to those programs. These are vital for so many students, especially from single and low income families.

Want more? We have a GROWING school, contrary to reports. How long until LaVerendrye School will no longer be adequate for our needs if we are moved over there? Sticking Earl Grey into a smaller school limits the growth Earl Grey can experience. And for what? If LaVerendrye moves into Earl Grey, I think they will be surprised to find they don't have the cavernous space they expect to have and, if they are growing as fast as they appear to be, will soon run out of space at that site. And then what? Earl Grey will have been dismantled. And for what? Basically a short term solution, when what is needed is a second French milieu school.

We have plenty to lose. And it is important to fight for this. It is frustrating to see people downplaying our losses. Or, trying to gloss over our very real concerns and questions over how this whole swap will work, because at the moment absolutely NOTHING has been clearly outlined, except what we have to lose. We have not been presented with one single gain yet! Just lose, lose, lose!

Now back to the blog as originally written:

So, are we a community divided? Yes and no. We are divided on this issue. But, none of us have to make this into a personal division between one another. We all have to live with the choices made in the end of course. It should only be on this subject that we look at ourselves as divided. In every other way, no we are not, and our feelings about this subject should not bleed through into other parts of our lives. I know that is hard with such an emotional issue. This is how I am approaching it, and I hope others are as well. Of course we will come through this. But, at the moment, we have a very divisive issue put in front of us. There is going to be damage done to the community. It is inevitable when a divisive issues comes forth. I, personally, am not going to have my connection with this community as a whole damaged, but I can see and understand how this might not be the case with everyone. It is a risk that comes from issues like this. 

In the end, yes, it is up to the Winnipeg School Division and the Trustees to make the final decision. The best all of us can do is present our cases. I still stand against a swap. I will still encourage parties involved to look at options that do not include Earl Grey School in it's solution. I will still stand up for the future of our school, it's programs, the staff and the students. Stop the swap. 

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