PG Parent Frustrated with School District
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.