by Lucie Roy
More than 80 parents gathered at the Rendez-Vous Centre Jan. 27 to take part in a consultation meeting on school bus transportation. Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord / Greater North Central Francophone Education Region No.2 (CSCN) called the meeting to see if there is a large request to transport Morinville Grade 7 to 9 students to École Alexandre-Tache in St. Albert or to continue bussing students to École Citadelle in Legal.
Emotions and passions were high throughout the meeting, and many showed strong parental solidarity for École Citadelle during the discussions. Some expressed their views with lumps in their throats, others through tears, and stern words were given by the emcee more than once, asking the gathering to remain calm and allow others to tell their stories.
CSCN received a request from three Morinville families to have children attend school in St. Albert. The Jan. 27 meeting centered on two options for consideration: Grade 7 to 9 students would continue at École Citadelle or Grade 7 to 9 students would attend École Alexandre-Tache school in St. Albert. Other options were open for discussion.
But many in attendance did not want an either or option. One attendee said she wanted to have her child attend the school of her choice, but the Region told her parents who decide to enroll their child at Alexandre-Tache must provide their own transportation because the Board designates only one school bus zone per school. Since 1994, the school bus zone for Morinville is to École Citadelle. As such, the Board cannot offer transportation from Morinville to Legal and also to St. Albert.
The situation is upsetting for some because transportation is currently available for Grades 10 to 12 from Morinville to Alexandre-Tache and from Morinville to Legal, something parents are told is not an option for Grades 7 to 9.
“Kids should have a choice,” said Petrina LaRocque. “Years ago, when the Citadelle parents had to decide where to send their 7-8-9 students when Tache was opening in the first place, we got asked as parents from Citadelle whether we wanted our 7-8-9 to go there or whether we wanted to keep them here [Legal]. And all but maybe one parent, that I can recall, wanted our kids to stay here.”
LaRocque went on to say she felt the current request for bussing to St. Albert was due to existing relationships for at least one family making the request and the opportunity to go to a new school.
She currently has two busses stopping at her home: one for a child in Grade 12 going to Tache, and one for her other two children in Grades 2 and 8 at Citadelle.
”‘This is a bad year to be asking me this question, as one will miss that Citadelle Grade 9 graduation and his friends are there,” she said. “Most of the people he is already close to are at that school.”
But the discussions extended beyond bussing options for Morinville families. At least one Legal parent expressed the view that Legal families should have the option to bus to the new Alexandre-Tache school set to open in September of 2016.
Other’s expressed concern that bussing even a small number of students to St. Albert could affect the school in Legal by creating combined grade classes or cancelled programs and course offerings, decisions that would have significant effects on students entering junior high school.
CSCN Superintendent Henri Lemire said parents still have an opportunity to voice their opinions by contacting their school trustee or the CSCN office. “The decision of the CSCN will be in place for the new school year,” he said.
The Jan. 27 meeting came a day after CSCN Superintendent and Trustees met in Legal to present the final report of the second Value Management exercise held last June for the school in Legal. At this stage, the three school authorities: CSCN, Greater St Albert Schools (GSACRD) and Sturgeon School Division (SSD) are not ready to prioritize Legal in their Capital Plan. As such, the Minister of Education is not likely to approve either of the options presented last year – the first being to modernize Legal School, including a gymnasium for Citadelle and space to accommodate 50 new students. The second option is identical except for a start-up school on the same site for Sturgeon School Division.