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October 27, 2017 9:12 pm

PG Parent Frustrated with School District

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 @ 5:50 AM

Prince George, B.C. – A Prince George parent has blasted the Prince George School District for “not managing their numbers” efficiently.

This after Elisabeth Veeken’s son was unable to get into Duchess Park Secondary this fall. She expected the graduate of St. Mary’s Catholic School would be joining her daughter at Duchess Park after she started her studies there two years ago.

Though she doesn’t live in the Duchess Park catchment area, Veeken says it was the norm for graduates of St. Mary’s to be able to continue their studies at Duchess Park in the past. She says that’s what parents expected to happen again last fall.

“As one of the experienced parents I was able to say ‘oh yeah, we applied and my daughter had no priority there but got in no problem.”

Except it was. Veeken said when she tried to register her son for Duchess Park earlier this year she received a letter stating her son was on a waiting list.

She said she brought her concerns to two school board meetings in May and June but to no avail. He was forced to enroll at DP Todd this fall instead.

Veeken blames the situation on overcrowding at Duchess Park.

“I’ve been told by the principal at DP Todd that the overcrowding is mainly from the increased number of grade eight students coming into the French immersion stream. We only have so much physical space and so much room for classes for grade eight’s,” she says.

Veeken says it’s even more frustrating because Prince George School Board Chair Tony Cable made no mention of overcrowding due to the district’s French immersion program in a story 250News ran last week.

“Overcrowding is an issue. It’s great that French immersion is popular – it’s a wonderful program from what I hear. But the district in my opinion and probably the opinion of quite a few people who aren’t gainfully employed by the district, is that it appears they’ve not managed their numbers,” says Veeken.

“They let it grow and grow and grow. I just find it really hard to believe that the district can’t forecast numbers – this is Prince George, we’re not having thousands of people moving in and out every year.”

In the meantime she now has to transport her children to two different schools and fears things will only get worse next year for others with the possibility Edgewood students will be moved out of the Duchess catchment area too.

For his part Cable takes issue with Veeken’s claim the district hasn’t been managing its numbers properly noting it does so “very, very carefully.”

“And we hired a consultant to do a long range facilities plan and we’ve been looking at this plan throughout last year and we know we have some enrollment issues at Duchess,” he says.

“But the bottom line here is that our school district works very closely with the private system. We have a very good relationship with the superintendent and the principal of the elementary school in that area but to be perfectly honest we have to be very careful to manage the numbers within the public system.”

Cable adds it’s “an absolute courtesy for us to take students at Duchess Park,” especially if they don’t live in that catchment area:”This becomes quite difficult when the enrollment numbers go up like they have at Duchess.”

Ultimately Cable says the district wants to work with all parents and all private schools and choice schools.

“But the bottom line is whenever we get into an issue like this we have to follow district policies and the district’s policies are very, very clear on what happens to students that are out of the enrollment area and there’s specific procedures that they have to follow.”

He says the district plans to explore the issue of overcrowding at Duchess Park further when it holds consultation meetings with parents this fall.



Why not just throw another portable on the playing field like they have been doing at other schools since Hall and the rest of the school board shut down a number of schools a few years ago.

    Hear, hear! This is the legacy of Hall’s years leading the Board. And the current crop of trustees (some of whom date from Hall’s era) function in too much of a reactive manner when our schools really need some proactive leadership that can reverse the decline we have been witnessing.

This isn’t a news story! Catchment areas have been around longer than the mother has been. First kid got lucky , second didn’t.

Eliminate registering out of catchment, problem solved.

The irony in a parent who throws her kid in private school, to avoid being around us heathens, and then complains she can’t pick her high school.. is priceless.

What a whiner! Private school then she wants the pick of which high school her child goes to. This woman should find something more productive to do with her time than complaining about her child’s misfortune. No wonder young adults are lazy and self entitled. How is this a news story?

    I agree with each and every word of this post.

The idle rantings of the entitled.

Wow… how many times can that guy use the word “very” to emphasize his points, sheesh!

I regularly follow opinion250 and don’t agree with this story being published. The school district has enough critics without nonsense issues designed to stir the pot. This woman wanted special treatment for her kid, she didn’t get it. Now she is complaining that the numbers were mismanaged? And she managed to get media coverage that is attempting to portray her and her child as victims? Then call into question an entire program?

    While I respect porter’s comment, I believe this is a very news worthy story, Ms Veeken’s enrollment issue served to point out the fact that some of our schools in this district are “overcrowded”, and I believe school overcrowding very news worthy!

      Is it overcrowded or is it full and can’t allow more special circumstances.

      Wow, so you actually want to “split hairs” here and go into the definition of what constitutes an “overcrowded” crowded school verse what is a “full” school?

      I’ll tell you what, follow this School Board’s lead and deny overcrowding exists, call them all “full” schools so everyone can:

      1. Deny school overcrowding exists;

      2. Sleep better at night knowing there is not an empty seat in those schools!

      Not splitting hairs. Full schools are more cost effective and allow for greater enrichment and increased course offerings. They are very desirable. Overcrowded schools decrease the quality of the experience and are undesirable. If Duchess is overcrowded due to out of catchment enrolment and the schools that these kids are supposed to go to have room, than the logical solution is to send the kids to the correct school. They have catchment areas to try to keep schools at capacity. This allows for a better product across the board, not just at one location.

      So basically, you promote a lack of choice for parents who want to enroll their children in schools outside their catchment areas. What if, for example, I no longer wish to enroll my child in one of the seven (7) schools that have HIGH lead levels in the drinking water, ensuring the other schools are “full” means we have to enroll our children in one of these seven high lead level schools?

      Basically your “numbers” approach takes away the “choice” parents should have to enroll their child in a school that is close to where the parent works, as compared to where they live.

      It must be difficult having some schools in this district only operating at 80% or 85% capacity, those empty seats, which represent parent flexibility and choice, must bother a number cruncher to no end… why? Because there should not be any empty seats!

      so clearly you advocate that anyone anywhere should be able to put their kid in any school regardless of capacity and the taxpayer should foot the cost. Those who want to choose which school their kid goes to simply have to use the private institutions to do that, simple, and if that isn’t available then be like everybody else and use the school that is put in your neighbourhood. If you don’t like the school that is supplied in your neighbourhood a simple solution is to move to a more “desireable” one.

      Bent; clearly you don’t understand that closing half our schools has lead to this situation, did you choose to simply ignorant this important fact, or are you just willfully being ignorant of the relevant facts to this situation?

According to an article about this situation that I read in another publication a few days ago, there’s another factor that isn’t mentioned here, namely that Ms. Veeken did not attempt to register her son for Duchess Park until a week after the deadline, which was in April if I recall correctly. I can’t say how reasonable that deadline is, but I can see that the school district would want to plan for the fall at the end of the spring term.

Anybody else remember the good old days when you would be personally accountable and check out things like schooling before you decided where to live?
Now it’s everybody else’s fault: the school I want won’t take my kids, the airplanes make noise, the trains make noise, the river floods…

    People used to do that. Unfortunately with the OCP and schools being changed/closed on a whim you can no longer do that.

Bound to happen, with all of the schools that have been shut down in district 57.

This is one side of a 2 sided story. I would like to hear the other side. If the french immersion program is so popular and everyone wants to be in it, open up more taking it from the general non-immersion stream. If a student enrolls in immersion, they are not in the general non-immersion program. The issue will be teachers available that are fluent in french and have the ability to teach the class. Immersion is just that. Every word spoken in the class is in french. Not every available teacher can speak french.
Blaming Hall on the current mess of over crowding is wrong. The actions of school boards are totally hinged on the funding formula given to them by the province. The funding formula is based on per student numbers. Students come and students go. Families mover into PG and families move away. I get the gist of the funding formula but things can change pretty quickly when it comes to enrollment.
The bigger issue here is a parent crying foul because her son can’t be in the same school as her other kid. Some parents camp out in order to get there kids into immersion programming at the elementary level. If she missed a deadline then it’s the list for you and your kid. There is usually a few kids who head back to the general non-immersion streams in the first few weeks. Maybe she will get lucky then she can get her kid in the school that is convenient for her and she can apologize for calling out the board and blaming mismanagement of numbers.

    Pretty much. The French Immersion really makes Duchess what it is, they balance the school out nicely. My kid went their , he was in English. I can honestly say it would be a very different, inner city school, without the French Immersion in it.

    Its a perfect fit, and I hope they never change what they have because it really works nicely right now.

      Sorry, its not a “perfect fit” and no it is not “really working nicely right now”.

      ht tp://tinyurl.com/jgnecpu

      The lady that the story is about lives in the Kelly Road catchment area. She doesn’t want her son to go to Kelly Road because of the hillbullies. I can understand her wanting her son and daughter at the same school for a bunch of reasons. If the lady had enrolled her son in French Immersion instead of at bible school, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. So the boy is now at his second choice…DP Todd. Wow…what a cruel world.

I blame Hall for this one. Under Hall he closed three junior high schools in PG and something like 23 elementary schools. It was over kill and undermined many neighbourhoods and created many catchment issues.

For over fifty years the kids of St Mary’s would generally go on at Dutchess Park, especially those with siblings that have also gone on to Duthcess Park. The school district should have a way of knowing how many students will be coming on stream from its catchment schools so as to have space availabilities.

Huge failure on the part of the school district IMO.

    Completely agree! I just read your comment after I made mine in response to Bent’s comment above. Why are some on here ignoring the important fact about school closures, and how it is contributing directly to the current overcrowding and catchment issues?

      Why are some ignoring that they make catchment areas for a reason?

    The population concerns at Duchess are a direct result of the growth of the french immersion program in our district. This growth is significant enough that the district is considering changing the Edgewood catchment area from Duchess Park to Kelly Road. If this were to happen for Sept 2017, then some families in the Edgewood area with students at DP would be forced to send younger siblings to KR. This is certainly not in the best interest of the families in this area.

    While some argue that out of catchment private school students should not have the choice to attend DP, how about the Francophone students at DP that are not even part of SD 57?

    If SD 57 was reactive to the exponential increase in french immersion the last few years, the additional pressure that DP is dealing with could have been alleviated by taking advantage of underutilized buildings in the district like PGSS. Changing catchment areas to accommodate a special program is sure to be a contentious issue.

      You make some excellent points bulltrout. You mentioned in your comment a very interesting comment: “While some argue that out of catchment private school students should not have the choice to attend DP, how about the Francophone students at DP that are not even part of SD 57?”

      I am sure most would agree, that would be a very controversial policy decision, however what about tweaking the policy to state students in the public school system, applying for registration at Secondary Schools, will be accommodated first before private school students? Still very controversial, however a subject that could warrant public input and discussion?

      At any rate, catchment, and the order in which students are accommodated who already have a “sibling” currently enrolled in the school are suppose to be factors when space is limited.

      Ms. Veeken may want to pursue the issue from a “sibling” currently enrolled in the school ranking of preference. I am impressed with the higher level of discussion this subject has generated.

If the students live in the catchment area at the time they enrol in high school, why should it matter where they went to elementary school?

French Immersion is a choice program within a publicly funded system. There are numerous additional costs to the taxpayer including busing costs to transport students from across the city. Parents choose private school education for a variety of reasons unrestricted to religion. Private school parents pay the cost for both public and private school systems. They subsidize the cost of public school education at the same time as they pay tuition for private schools. Why should they be penalized when it comes to entering the publicly funded high school system? It does not make sense.

    The problem is, a lot of people are using addresses that are not theirs to get their kids in Duchess. There are no ‘catchment police’ , but if there were… that would probably solve a lot of the issues as well.

    mytwocents; yours was a very good comment that raised a couple of relevant issue with respect to private verse public education funding. Of course parents of private school children contribute “some” tax dollars to public education schools / system.

    However, please realize the majority of funding a school district receives is by way per student block funding based on actual enrollment numbers in each public school district. In Prince George for each student registered, and enrolled, in a public school, the school district receives $7,166 dollars per student.

    For each child that enrolls in a private school, the majority of which are grade K to grade seven (7) schools, the school district receives $7,166 dollars less per student lost to a private school. While it hurts public schools because they miss that per student funding, what is happening here is the larger influx of former private school grade seven (7) students into the grade eight (8) public high school system.

    While the per student funding, missed during the grade K to grade 7 private school was missed, and now most welcome at the grade eight (8) level, this puts additional pressure on public high schools because of the now larger influx of private school students enrolling into the public school system.

    Remember… private school enrollment has been skyrocketing in this district, and across the province.

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