Presentation to School Board – April 4th

At the public input section of the school board meeting of April 4th, the DPAC chair gave the following presentation:

Good evening. I’m Gillian Burnett representing the District Parent Advisory Council. I sit before you tonight, knowing that our organization has failed – we have been ineffective in influencing change that we have spent years advocating for. The release of the recommendation to reopen Springwood Elementary- what should be a good news story-, and the subsequent response from many families, has followed our anticipated, predicted and feared path.

For many years we have kept vigilante watch on enrollments, projections and capacities. We have written reports, delivered presentations and had numerous conversations about the need to plan in advance for a better response to ever changing demographics and emergent issues.

Let’s look at two examples. The declining enrollment and under-capacity of our buildings that resulted in the 2010 closures had been evident for quite some time, and it was the loss of the Annual Facilities Grant which made the problem critical. Compare that to today. The increasing enrollment and subsequent capacity challenges in the Hart area have been evident for quite some time, with class size changes now making them critical.

The very nature of a crisis implies restrictions on the length of time we have to plan and act and results in what DPAC has called “unnecessarily disruptive processes “. We have repeatedly called upon the board and administration to develop a process that allows time for fulsome consultation, communication, planning and implementation. Our recommendation is the same today as it was in March, in January, or 5 years ago:

We recommend that a standing committee with full partner group representation be created. That the committee meet annually to review the district’s enrollments, capacities and projections in order to identify trends, challenges and emergent issues. That partner groups be engaged in providing input on proposed solutions and implementation plans.

If you approve Item 7.1 later this evening, there is a lot of work to be done in order to make this successful for our affected communities.

We know transitions can create stress for those affected. We know that stress is a contributing factor to vulnerability in childhood development. We know that the Hart area has seen an increase in the number of kids vulnerable on 1 or more scales of the EDI. And good news, we know that strong relational communities that provide nurturing and enriching environments are most effective in mitigating the negative outcomes for vulnerable children.

Some of the processes necessary to implement this plan have been predetermined and are outlined in the recommendation already, but more is needed. We need a process that can begin to build a sense of community. We need to ensure that from this point forward, communication with affected parties is improved and that those affected are engaged in developing an effective implementation plan. We need a process that identifies the supports and resources necessary to ensure Springwood becomes the very best environment we can provide.

I hope my presentation has helped identify constructive solutions to improve the outcomes for our students, their families and communities. Thank you.

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