Students at George Jay Elementary will no longer have a music room as of this September. (File contributed/ Fernwood NRG)

Loss of music room at George Jay Elementary School hits sour note with PAC

Starting in September 2019 the music room will be converted into a classroom

Some members of the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) at George Jay Elementary School are angered by the loss of the school’s music room.

At the end of June, the school was told that the beloved music room would be converted into a classroom in September to help accommodate new catchment changes and increasing enrolment levels.

This, said PAC president Angela Cooper-Carmichael, presents a big problem about transparency.

“We were told that the music room would be spared and that we’d get a portable,” Cooper-Carmichael said. “But we got neither.”

Instead, the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) will be installing a $20,000 outdoor learning space and “self-regulation circuit.” This will consist of a covered outdoor area, with the addition of several exercises stenciled onto concrete areas around the school. Cooper-Carmichael said this is unnecessary since the school already has an outdoor learning space.

“We don’t need another one, we already have one and it doesn’t work for everyone,” Cooper-Carmichael said. “For anyone with behavioural issues, they’re not going to sit on a stump, they’re going to throw rocks.”

ALSO READ: Greater Victoria School District’s new catchment boundaries eliminate ‘programs of choice

Furthermore, Cooper-Carmichael said, not having a spare room leaves kids with learning disabilities stranded.

“If a child has an outburst or is autistic there’s nowhere for an EA [education assistant] to take them to de-escalate,” she said.

The PAC has reached out to SD61 for comment about the change in plans, but so far has not heard back.

During in-person meetings with SD61 board members Cooper-Carmichael asked why the idea of a portable was dismissed, and was reportedly told that the board was having problems getting the correct permits from the City of Victoria.

Cooper-Carmichael reached out to the City to see what the issue was.

“I was assured that no permit for a portable had been applied for or denied,” she said.

Black Press also reached out to the City to see if a permit had been put forward, and were also told that no application was put forward.

Specific members of the school board were not available for comment on the issue, but Lisa McPhail, SD61 communications and community engagement, was able to confirm that a portable had been a considered before the outdoor space was chosen as the best option.

McPhail could not confirm whether anyone from the board made comments about permit issues with Cooper-Carmichael or not.

ALSO READ: More portables coming to West Shore schools

“The School District has had many conversations with George Jay’s staff and school community in regards to its rapid growth, space pressures and available options,” McPhail said.

“The District recognizes that in the short term, the change from having music in a specialized space is not ideal. It also knows that the staff are very excited about having the new outdoor learning space and circuit for September. This space will complement and support the excellent teaching and learning happening at George Jay for many years to come.”

The music teacher at the school will retain her position, and will work on a mobile basis between classrooms.

Still, the lack of transparency on the decision, said Cooper-Carmichael, puts students at risk.

“These are the most at-risk children in the city, approximately 74 per cent come from community housing,” she said. “They’re the ones losing their music program. Why is it that the poor kids are getting shafted?”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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