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Parents weigh in on proposed overhaul of Peterborough-area school boundaries

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Parents weigh in on proposed Peterborough area school boundary changes
Parents are weighing in on proposed school boundary changes within the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. The board held its first community engagement meeting on Wednesday evening following the release of four proposed strategies to alleviate growing pains. Robert Lothian has the details – Apr 18, 2024

Dozens of parents brought their concerns and questions to school board officials on Wednesday regarding proposed sweeping changes to the boundaries of many Peterborough-area public schools.

The proposed major overhaul is part of an accommodation phase-in approach by the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board to address student overcapacity and rising enrolment. Four extensive options — labelled A, B, C, D — each have different boundary options that could potentially impact more than two dozen schools and multiple programs, such as French immersion. The options will mean some students will relocate to a new school in either Peterborough or Peterborough County.

The goal is to implement options by September 2025.

Wednesday’s meeting at Kenner Collegiate in Peterborough was the board’s first community engagement to explain the proposed options, answer inquiries and receive feedback. Board chairperson Jaine Klassen Jeninga says there have been more than 1,300 messages on the board’s online forum and feedback continues to pour in.

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“Keep asking questions and keep giving us observations because these are your children, these are your schools, these are your communities,” Jeninga said. “At the end of the day we want to be able to honour all of those when we make our final decision. Your kids are why we are doing this.”

Adrian Shields, whose daughter attends Westmount Public School in Peterborough, was among the parents at the meeting. Shields says they specifically moved from the city’s south end to the west end so her daughter could attend Westmount and continue her French studies.

Shields says some of the options could see families with multiple children attending different schools.

“It feels very fragmented that families may not be able to stay together, communities may not stay together,” she said. “I’m worried about her (daughter). She has made a lot of great friends in the community and school and that will shift and change and she’ll have to start all over.”

Fellow Westmount school parent Neal Horne echoed the sentiment, noting he also relocated to the city’s west end to be within walking or biking distance of the school. He says some of the options proposed would create changes to his family that are “extremely distressing.”

He says while he understands population growth and its impacts, he doesn’t want a repeat of the fallout when Westmount’s English stream students in grades 7 and 8 were relocated to Crestwood Secondary School in Cavan-Monaghan Township in 2020, while grades 7 and 8 French immersion shifted to Adam Scott Intermediate School in Peterborough.

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“I’ve already made the move a few years ago and lost our intermediate school and that was hard on our whole community,” Horne said. “I think in our case, we’ve already paid the price. So we’re looking to try to keep stability and the status quo for our families who have already dealt with a lot of emotional upheaval and movement.”

“Look at what is the most feasible, cost-effective and educationally equitable for all within the board,” he added. “You’re thinking about yourself, but you’re thinking about your whole community too.”

All four options proposed would impact the boundaries of the new Kaawaate East City Public School in Peterborough. If approved, some students currently living within the boundary would be under the boundary of either Otonabee Valley Public School or Warsaw Public School.

Either change would mean French immersion students would attend either Prince of Wales Public School or Lakefield District Public School.

That doesn’t sit well with parents Laura Zielinski and Derek Pollock, who said they bought their home to be within Kaawaate’s district. They say their daughter has already shifted around to two other schools while waiting for Kaawaate to open in September 2021.

“I hate to use the COVID line but these kids were isolated for so long and they only have so many friends and they’re splitting these,” Zielinski said. “No matter which way you look, it’s all very difficult, especially for Kaawaate.”

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“They’re not only splitting up friends, but also families too,” Pollock added. “Brothers and sisters are going to be going all over the place now. We’re trying to figure out what the thought process on all of this was.”

Both say they hope the school board lives up to its promise to listen to parents’ concerns.

“They keep telling us our voices are going to be heard and I really hope that they will hold to that and actually be accountable to listening to our families and our communities,” Zielinski said.

Megan O’Gorman, another Kaawaate school parent, is also a staff member. She feels the options offered are “splitting apart” the new school and its newly established French immersion program that was fragmented at several schools for multiple years.

“(It’s) feeling a bit frustrating and a feeling that decisions have already been made in terms of our school, specifically,” the mother of two said. “The options are all the same — we have no options. There are no (differences). Our fate is sealed and we are going to different areas.”

O’Gorman also hopes the board will consider alternative proposals and concerns from the Kaawaate community.

“Really take a hard look at the transportation. And look into the future with future builds and subdivisions being proposed. Don’t let this happen again in five to seven years when those houses are filled — instead of uprooting established communities,” she said.

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Jeninga admits the board will face “hiccups” as it attempt to address the needs of thousands of families. However, she says the board is willing to look at individual situations as part of eventually making a “robust” decision.

It’s expected administration will spend the summer months reviewing public input while updating, revising or even eliminating boundary options. Revised options will be presented to the board in the fall and further community engagement is expected. Any final decision is expected by the board in December.

“All that feedback is important in making decisions down the road,” Klassen said.

— with files from Robert Lothian/Global News Peterborough

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