Archived Letter – 333

I am a parent from Rockwood and my child is being affected by the recent boundary review of the French Immersion program at Edward Johnson PS in Guelph. Recently there were a lot of letters following the boundary review from parents. To say that we, the parents from Rockwood and Eden Mills, are not happy with the decision of the school board is an understatement. The Boards decision was to assign the home school for French Immersion to be in Erin/Brisbane. The children that are currently enrolled in Edward Johnson and their younger siblings have a two year window of reprieve to go to King George in Guelph, while new enrolls will have to go to Erin or Brisbane. A feasibility study for French Immersion in Rockwood is to be conducted this summer. The whole boundary review left a bad taste in everyones mouth and for so many reasons.From the very beginning, we felt outraged that the decision for our childrens education has been taken out of our hands. The original, preferred scenario by the planning committee was for all children from Rockwood, Eden Mills and Everton to be transferred to Brisbane and Erin. When my husband and I moved to Rockwood almost 3 years ago, we made sure Rockwood would be in Edward Johnsons boundary. I know of a family that moved to Rockwood from Scarborough to be within that same boundary. If I wanted my daughter to attend Erin or Brisbanes PS, I would have moved to Erin. It is not feasible for us to send our daughter to Erin based on distance and our ties to Guelph. Everyone we talked to about the boundary review, and these are people un-affected by the review, were shocked that such a drastic measure could come to anyones mind. As a parent who sends her child on two buss to get to school in Guelph, a total of 45-50 min ride one way, I cannot agree to send her to Erin, which is further from Rockwood and even further away from my work. Should anything happen the nearest hospital is either Orangeville or Mississauga. Given the choice of sending our daughter to Erin or drop out of FI, we choose to drop out of French Immersion and stay in Rockwood. Hence, our choice in our childrens education was swept away by the vote of the School Board. Not to mention that some families are already making plans of moving out of Rockwood and move to Guelph. Should the school board be forcing people to take such dire decisions? Are we not the primary stakeholders in the board? Another issue that we stumbled upon from the beginning of the review process was that the potential school our kids will go to, should they decide to drop out of French Immersion, is the most over populated in the school board district. Rockwood Centennial PS is at 125% of its capacity and yet the board has not made any provisions for a new school in Rockwood, despite the growth forecast in this area. At the same time both schools in Erin and Brisbane are projected be under populated in the next few years and if no new enrollments come, they could potentially face closure. We were afraid that whatever cause of action we took, the consequences would be grave. If we decided to succumb to the Erin idea so that we can keep our children in French Immersion, this will set a precedent that ALL Rockwood children can and WILL be sent to Erin and Brisbane. The next wave of fresh blood for these schools will be English track students from Rockwood as ALL schools in Guelph are at or over capacity. If we chose to stay in Rockwood, the school will be cracking at the seams and this will trigger a boundary review with the preferred choice of sending Rockwood children to Erin. Effectively, the boards decision achieved both scenarios: the precedent is set with sending any new French Immersion enrollments to Brisbane and the children that got the reprieve till 2014 in King George will go to Erin as this is their FI home school. We can see that the board is trying to match students to the existing resources the best way they can. And with a dwindling student population in Erin, will leave the schools under populated. While only 35 km away there is a thriving community with constantly increasing population and an over populated school, this being Rockwood Centennial. If the boards choice is to send a fair share of Rockwood students to Erin, to utilize the existing capacity in Erin, do they consider transportation costs over the longer period of time and the effect on the environment and on our children who will not be able to attend activities in Guelph? Surely this cannot be a permanent decision. Would people come to live in Rockwood knowing that their children will be bused to Erin? I can only talk on behalf of my family, but I can say that if we would not have moved to Rockwood under these circumstances. Our delegations at the boundary review pleaded that our home school be assigned Rockwood PS. This will help the board get the much needed funding for a second school in Rockwood based on attendance numbers and strengthen the French Immersion program in our community. We know there are parents who will join the program if it is offered closer to home. We have some good examples in the board of a thriving French Immersion program once it is offered closer to home. As one of the trustees said: Build it (the school) and they will come (the students). During the final vote, the Board decided to conduct a feasibility study in Rockwood for French Immersion. It is to be conducted in a very short period of time and the results are to be presented by the fall. We do believe that establishing French Immersion in Guelph is truly the one and only working solution for our community: Our children will still be enrolled in French Immersion, program of our choice that is so beneficial for the development of our children; Our children will go to school in our own neighbourhood; We are still very close to Guelph for the extra-curricular activities, sports, music, tutoring, dentist, doctors, etc. Rockwood will qualify for a second school, a dual track English and French; The Guelph schools will not have to accommodate for the rural children from our area, which was the trigger of this whole process; It will be easier for parents to volunteer in a Rockwood School than in schools in Erin and Brisbane; No transportation to and from Guelph or to and from Erin, reduced carbon footprint; It will send a strong message to potential home buyers in Rockwood that there is a stability and certainty in their childrens education; The School Board is having a Parent Meeting at Rockwood Centennial Gym on February 22, 2012 at 7: 00pm to discuss the possibility of French Immersion program in Rockwood. However, the broader public was not notified, only the affected families of the boundary review from Rockwood and Eden Mills. We have spread the word by flyers in all major public places in Rockwood. And we, as parents in Rockwood and Eden Mills, would like to invite all parents who plan or consider enrolling their children in French Immersion. We believe we can build a successful program in Rockwood and we are reaching to everyone who is interested in sending their children attending French Immersion. Please come and help keep all our French Immersion and English track kids in Rockwood. Elitsa Brown

Elitsa Brown