A proposal to shift Westside French Immersion students from École Kelowna Secondary to Mount Boucherie Secondary on an interim basis won’t be enacted until the 2023-24 school year, and not without further consultation with affected parents and students.
The planning and facilities committee adopted that recommendation for the board of education, after school trustees referred the issue to the committee back in January and it was subsequently further tabled until this month.
The move was recommended by school district staff to address the overcrowding at KSS, which already has caused the board of education to reduce the international student program enrolment and transfer catchment area French Immersion students from KSS to Okanagan Mission Secondary, a move opposed by affected students and parents.
The committee – which consists of voting trustee members Chantelle Desrosiers (chair), Lee-Ann Tiede and Norah Bowman – debated the issue with input from staff and board of education chair Moyra Baxter.
Desrosiers said while consultation, which found a majority of Westside FI students attending KSS would prefer to stay there, has been done, there are more questions surrounding this issue that deserve a response from the Westside school community.
Desrosiers said a fall consultation initiative will already be underway this fall to discuss Westside school catchment boundary changes, and there is no rush to make a hasty decision that may be regretted later.
She said confirmation of funding to repurpose Ecole George Pringle school as the second high school on the Westside has been adopted by the board of education, but the school district still is awaiting a final funding decision from the provincial Board of Treasury.
Desrosiers added with COVID-19 public gathering restrictions headed in a direction of being eased, she looks forward this fall to having town hall forums the public can attend.
“You get a better understanding of what people are feeling and their concerns if these meetings are done in-person that you don’t get virtually,” she noted.
She also acknowledged the new secondary school, if and when it is approved, carries significant implications for all Westside schools.
“We are discussing this (moving Westside students from KSS to MBSS) as an interim measure, but we still don’t know how long that will be for,” Desrosiers said.
Baxter pointed out KSS currently has eight portables and MBSS has 11, which is expected to expand annually until the new Westside high school opens.
“This just isn’t a KSS issue,” said Baxter. “This is a Westside issue so we should be consulting with people and giving them all the facts and tell them this is the situation. Let’s talk to them.”