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School board puts student siblings first

SD61 details portables for eight schools including, Reynolds, Campus View
Two portables will be added at Campus View elementary, one of eight schools in SD61 that will receive portables to address the bump in school population and decreasing class size. SD61 illustration

The Greater Victoria School District has confirmed it will prioritize siblings of in-catchment students over siblings of non-catchment area students starting in the 2018-19 school year.

It ends the debate from earlier this year when parents called out the initial proposal for not splitting up siblings as in and out of catchment. Concerns were raised when the early proposal re-ranked new, in-catchment students ahead of the younger siblings of current students, and did not differentiate between siblings as in or out of catchment.

“Over the past few months, there has been a tremendous amount of dialogue with our community on the new priorities, and we believe they reflect a commitment to neighbourhoods, families and equity across our school district,” said school board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga.

The new ranking of enrolment priorities was approved at the SD61 board of education meeting on Monday. It will rank students as follows: re-enrolling students; a catchment area sibling; a catchment area child; a non-catchment sibling; a non-catchment child; a non-school district child.

Loring-Kuhanga noted there will be a study of catchment boundaries for regular schools and French immersion schools, and that in the fall there will be a review of reopening previously shuttered schools.

“We will have a vibrant community of first class neighbourhood schools throughout our district which will benefit all students and their families,” Loring-Kuhanga said.

As far as sibling priority goes, it moves away from the previous ranking, which was deemed inadequate with the coming growth in school population.

The SD61 operations and planning committee forwarded the recommendation on June 12 after about six months of research and public consultation.

A number of parents had requested grandfathering non-catchment siblings from families of currently enrolled students. However, superintendent Piet Langstraat confirmed at the June 12 operations and planning committee meeting that the trustees chose not to grandfather the families of current students as it could be 15 to 20 years to complete the transition.

SD61 also plans to add portables at eight schools. This comes as the district prepares for a greater number of students due to smaller class sizes and increased enrolment. Among the schools are Saanich-based Reynolds secondary (two), Campus View elementary (two) and Cloverdale Traditional School (to be determined). Willows, Quadra, Oaklands, Margaret Jenkins and Central middle school will also add portables.