For the first time in 13 years, Westsyde elementary will be filled this fall with the sights and sounds of wide-eyed students.
As expected, the Kamloops-Thompson board of education on Monday night unanimously approved motions reconfiguring David Thompson elementary’s catchment area and spending $1 million to renovate and re-open Westsyde elementary, which was closed in 2006 due to declining enrolment.
The decision, however, was followed by an additional motion from the board stipulating current Grade 6 students at David Thompson now living outside the school’s new catchment area be given priority to remain at that school for their final year, Grade 7, in 2019-2020.
A public-consultation process regarding re-opening Westsyde yielded mostly positive feedback, but a common concern from parents was that some students heading into their final year of elementary school would be split up from their friends. One suggested fix proposed at a Jan. 30 public meeting was to move all students affected by the catchment change except for those going into Grade 7.
Staff, however, advised against this idea.
“This was a tough one,” school district assistant superintendent Rob Schoen told the board, pointing out there are arguments for any class to remain at David Thompson. “Where we landed is we favour families staying together at schools over friends,” Schoen said.
He added that students still have the option to transfer schools.
Trustee Cara McKelvey suggested the motion to give Grade 6 students a chance to remain at David Thompson, noting it was a prevalent issue raised by parents.
“If that’s practical,” trustee John O’Fee said. “I think it’s a mistake to tie the hands of our administration.”
O’Fee suggested adding “if practical” to the motion, noting it could create staffing issues if the school is over a class size limit by just a few students.
“You’ve got to give the administrators some leeway,” he said.
That wording “where practical” was added to the motion, which was passed unanimously.
Staffing hasn’t yet been completed for Westsyde. Transfer approvals are made by a school’s principal, who will be hired in the spring.
Monday’s vote approved a catchment change that will see all students living north of Pine Springs Road — starting from homes that border Sicamore Drive, Sumac Place and Seneca Place —attend Westsyde elementary. The distirct estimates Westsyde elementary hosuing about 175 students.