Parents against grade reconfiguration bring protest to school board meeting

Group wants to keep K-7 elementary schools, says timeline is too tight

Parents against removing Grades 6 and 7 from rural Abbotsford elementary schools demonstrated at the district school board meeting on Tuesday.

Parents against removing Grades 6 and 7 from rural Abbotsford elementary schools demonstrated at the district school board meeting on Tuesday.

Over 30 parents and their supporters, who oppose reconfiguring Abbotsford’s rural schools, brought their frustrations to a school board meeting Tuesday evening.

They oppose a plan to rearrange grades so Kindergarten-to-Grade 7 schools become K to 5, with students starting middle school in Grade 6. The rearrangement was proposed to respond to shifting populations at rural schools, and the board plans to decide this spring whether to make the changes for the fall of 2016.

They wielded “Save our K-7 Schools” signs made by Jared White, father of two kids at Upper Sumas Elementary. They want to keep K-7 schools as an option everywhere in the district because, they argue, some kids just aren’t ready to leave elementary school at Grade 6.

The demonstration was organized in the “Save our K-7 Schools” Facebook group, which has 326 members at press time.

The change, which would take effect next year, would impact Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt. Lehman and Ross elementaries in the city’s west, and Barrowtown and Upper Sumas elementaries in the east. The district also proposed changing catchment areas so Barrowtown and Upper Sumas students would attend Abbotsford middle and senior.

White says if the change goes through, he and other parents might want to switch their children to one of the board’s public magnet programs, or to a private school but applications for popular schools fill up fast.

“Parents have to start registering their children in January if they want to get into a choice school,” he said. “How can we do that if you won’t tell us if the grade [reconfiguration] is going through until February?”

Dave Stephen, the spokesperson for the Abbotsford School District, gave a statement saying “we feel the timeline provided for the consultation and decision on the proposed reconfiguration is appropriate.”

At the meeting, White and others asked questions to the board about the reconfiguration timeline but they weren’t happy about the answers they got.

“We’re hoping they leave the choice here with us,” said Tara MacDonnel, who has three kids at Mount Lehman.

Consultations about the change will take place in January, and the board will make its final decision on the matter on Feb. 26.

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