A proposal to merge three Saskatoon schools into one is raising concern from parents who say they’re worried plans to amalgamate the schools aren’t considering the effects it will have on kids and their parents.
This came as a surprise to Cindy Ducherer. Her son Luke just started kindergarten at King George last fall, with his younger brother set to join him in a couple years.
Ducherer said moving the school would make it much harder with buses and other commuting challenges, when currently she and Luke just walk.
“We weren’t even asked if the school was going to be closed, we were just told this is their plan,” she said.
“Now the kids are going to be on the bus for 45 minutes extra a day … having to bus, and pick him up … it’s going to be a huge difference than a five minute little walk.”
Nicole Dyck chose to send her five-year-old daughter to King George, a school she called “quiet” and, similar to the Ducherers, was easy to walk to.
“We walk every day if we can and I hoped that she could do that as she gets older with getting more independence that she could walk to school and play with friends at the park,” she said.
“That just doesn’t seem like a reality at the location that they’re proposing.”
A new location hasn’t been chosen yet, but Saskatoon Public Schools previously suggested a space around Princess Alexandra.
Karen Farmer’s daughter is grown up, but went to King George as a child. The three schools all offer strong after-school programs like sports and boys and girls club.
Farmer said she worries other kids won’t get the same community connection her daughter did.
“I really don’t know how a kid at Avenue R is supposed to get to Avenue H just walking along 20th Street in the dark of winter to go to any after school programming,” she said.
“I think it’s going to make a program desert in a neighbourhood that needs it so much.”
According to a survey by the King George Community Association, 70 per cent of people in the area rely on the school for community programming.
Farmer said she and her neighbours plan to start a petition to save the schools. Parents said they want to talk to the school board and province about other options.
“We’re open to a lot of things,” said Dyck, offering ideas such as looking at a different location for the new school, or building on to one of the existing schools.
“We just would like to start a discussion so we can see what our options might be.”
In an email to Global News, Saskatoon Public Schools spokesperson Veronica Baker wrote: “Our school division has had informal discussions with some members of the community associations and neighbourhoods.
“However, the ongoing demand of the pandemic has impacted our ability to host community consultations according to the method and timing we had expected.”
Baker said the school board hopes to have consultations with the three community associations in the schools’ neighbourhoods, along with community partners, before the end of January.
She added since the new school received funding from the provincial government to build, that it must be follow its timeline for school projects.