Letter: Explaining the school district’s sibling priority dilemma

I am writing in response to a letter submitted by Glynis Gittens May this week titled “Catchment Students Safe.”

She was speaking to the original article May 19 Saanich News’ story, “Parents concerned enrollments changes will split up siblings.”

In her letter she states that she was under the impression that the recommendation wouldn’t affect children who are in-catchment and whose siblings are already attending their in-catchment school. However, the reality is that many schools are at or near capacity, and do not have enough space to meet the demand of all in-catchment children. This leaves the question of what to do when choosing between two in-catchment children.

At the May 8 board meeting the superintendent stated that the language for the proposed changes would not differentiate between in-catchment and out-of-catchment siblings. This means that when there are two children who are in-catchment, one with a sibling attending the school and one without, and only one available spot, the child with a sibling attending the school will not be given priority.

Furthermore, I don’t think the public is aware of the inevitability of the re-drawing of catchment lines to more evenly distribute students throughout the district. This means that parents with children currently attending their catchment school may find the lines are moved and their younger children are no longer in-catchment. Without a priority placed on siblings, they will be very unlikely to be granted a spot at the same school as their older sibling.

These are just two examples of how families are going to be affected by this proposed change. There are still the issues of French immersion catchments, movement to middle and high school for children who are currently attending an out of catchment school, and many other situations.

To me, the main issue lies with the fact that a survey was distributed to parents without any information explaining the impact of the different options presented in the survey. The questions were extremely leading and seem to have been designed for a particular outcome.

I would like to think that most parents would welcome the chance to take or re-take this survey now that they are more informed. However, as Glynnis’s letter proves, there are a lot of people out there who are still not clear on the multiple ways and situations where this will put an unnecessary stress on families who are already part of a strong school community. Families that will be faced with the decision of uprooting their children or trying to accommodate the everyday dealings of pick ups, drop offs, PAC events, Pro-D days, school functions etc… at multiple schools throughout their children’s entire school careers.

I realize we need a solution for the increase in school populations in the coming years. However it seems that changing sibling priority will have a far more negative impact than anticipated and will create a host of problems down the line. I don’t think we can really call that a solution.

Leslie Hodgkinson