Sooke School District No. 62 superintendent Scott Stinson explains that most block classes at Belmont Secondary will be halved. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)

Sooke School District opens conversation on catchment boundary changes

Feedback solicited at virtual town hall Oct. 28

How do you maximize space in the Sooke School District without overcrowding one school and under-utilizing another?

Answering that question and others is the rationale behind the next stage of a catchment boundary review consultation that includes a virtual town hall at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The town hall will outline proposals and provide parents with the opportunity to provide feedback on proposed changes, said Scott Stinson, superintendent of SD 62.

The review was necessary because the new catchment areas for Pexsisen Elementary and Centre Mountain Lellum Middle schools, which will open in September 2022, means the lines for some of the existing catchment boundaries need to be redrawn.

“We are reaching out to the community with a proposal on how we can balance enrolment throughout the district with these two schools,” Stinson said.

READ ALSO: An inside look at one of SD62’s schools before students welcomed back

A Catchment Working Group has been studying areas of potential changes and gathering enrolment projections for existing catchments since spring. The group, made up of administration from various schools with input from district departments and senior executive, identified study areas and developed potential options for the board to consider. That information will be presented to staff and Parent Advisory Councils at each school in the district, the Sooke Parents Advisory Council, the French Advisory Committee, and parents and guardians through the virtual town hall. A ThoughtExchange will be open online from Oct. 28 to Nov. 13 to gather feedback.

The guiding principles for catchment boundaries include proximity to feeder schools, maximizing space in all existing schools, long-term sustainability and a host of other considerations, including student safety and minimizing disruption to students.

Some of the proposals include a reduction in the student population at David Cameron Elementary because of the larger number of students who live in west Langford near Pexsisen Elementary. Boundary lines would expand into Ruth King and Colwood elementary schools to balance the population at David Cameron.

Colwood Elementary’s population would decrease to create space so English program students in Belmont Park can attend a school closer to home. Those students are currently included in the catchment area for Crystal View Elementary.

The French Immersion program at Millstream Elementary would move to Crystal View. The new French Immersion catchment outside of Ecole John Stubbs would include the Millstream, Lakewood, Crystal View and Savory elementary schools’ boundaries.

READ ALSO: Sooke School District announces contractor for two new Langford schools

The French Immersion program at Belmont Secondary would move to Royal Bay Secondary by gradually transitioning students from Belmont. French Immersion students currently enrolled at Belmont would complete their dual Dogwood at Belmont.

Grade 8 students from John Stubbs would begin attending Royal Bay in September 2021.

Stinson emphasized that the changes are only proposals at this time, and underlined the importance of participating in the virtual town hall and providing feedback through the ThoughtExchange before Nov. 13. The feedback will be presented to the Board of Education by the middle of December.

Visit sd62.bc.ca/ourdistrict/district-growth/catchment-review/ and sd62.bc.ca/our-district/district-growth/catchment-review/faq for more information.

Billi-Jo Cavanaugh, president of the Sooke District Chapter of Canadian Parents for French, said in an email to the Gazette that they are looking forward to the consultation with the district to find out more, and are awaiting the guidance of the District’s French Advisory Committee, where all French programming decisions will be vetted to ensure changes are in the best interests of the students, families, staff and program.

“We look forward to hearing more from affected parents and encourage them to email us at cpfsooke@hotmail.com so that we can include their perspective in our advocacy on this matter, and join their voice to ours,” Cavanaugh said.

SD 62, the fastest-growing school district in the province per capita, currently has 11,279 students enrolled. There are 5,193 students in elementary schools, 2,525 in middle schools, and 3,561 in secondary schools.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

SD62