Calgary Board of Education: we need a decision on Westgate Elementary

Hi, CBE? I’m a concerned parent. Yeah, I know you’ve heard from a lot of us in the last year regarding what you want to do with Westgate Elementary. You’ve heard so much, you’re not listening to us anymore, which I can understand — there’s only so much you can hear before you’ve heard enough.

But we — that’s you as the Board, and us as parents — have a problem: there’s no decision. The school is still over-populated, and despite having pulled another grade out, there’s going to be too many students for next year.

So … what’s going on? We need an answer. And preferably now, and not at the end of this school year.

You’ve pulled Grade 5 and sent them abroad. (Those students, by the way, are having trouble trying to function in a much bigger school. Big trouble. Ask their parents.) But that’s not enough. You need to decide the future of French and Spanish at the school. We’ve already heard that Spanish is likely to be the one to depart. It’s the youngest of the two programs, after all. (It’s terrible reasoning, incidentally — both programs are equally used, according to the Principal.) It needs to live, separately, at a different school.

My problem is that my child is enrolled in Grade 1 Spanish. She quite likes it. I quite like that the school is less than five minutes by foot from our home in Westgate. It’s effectively our community school, even though it’s really not, since it’s a language school first. So if Spanish leaves … where does my child go?

Did I mention she’s in Grade 1? I’m not a big fan of bussing her somewhere, even less considering driving her. Yes, I know kindergarten students are currently bussed — I don’t agree with that, either. Maybe I’m old school (pardon the pun), but I believe schools should be walked to, not driven.

Okay, rant aside, we still have to contend with where. In all the discussions that have been had to date, the schools mentioned are quite a way beyond Westgate. One of them, Jennie Elliott Elementary School, is in Lakeview, a minimum 7.7 kilometre drive. I know that doesn’t sound like much to you, but for someone who has been a mere 350 metres away, it’s a significant change.

Admittedly, that’s just us. We know that we’re in the minority — most kids are shipped into Westgate everyday, and in the end, the percentage of bussed/driven students vs. walking distance would probably remain somewhat similar.

What won’t remain the same is the effort and time taken to get students somewhere. Let’s go back to that change in distance: about 8 kilometres between the two schools. Why is this significant? Because bus routes will have to change, and parents driving their kids will have to change. Going in and out of Lakeview isn’t particularly easy during rush hour (Westgate, we know, is bad enough). You’re diverting people even further (we know a large proportion comes from “up the hill” to the west of Sarcee), and incurring more time.

How about we suggest something different? There’s a highly unused school barely a kilometre away that could easily accommodate the change: Rosscarrock Elementary. It’s very underpopulated. So much so that a large portion of that school is used by Chinook Learning Services, presumably to fill the otherwise unused space. (We know this because our youngest child attends a preschool there, presumably also in unused space.) And at barely a kilometre difference from Westgate Elementary, you’re not asking for huge changes in how people move around — it’s only an extra couple of minutes to drive there, and access to Rosscarrock is marginally better.

So, can I suggest you consider Rosscarrock for the new home for Spanish? For the parents at large, and for the kids who have to travel by bus, this is a far more sane option than asking them to trek further into Lakeview. And if, as your plans last year suggested, that Spanish kids would eventually flow to A.E. Cross, Rosscarrock is a closer school, again reducing the distance delta.

No matter what your final decision, we would like to know soon. We’ve been waiting a long time for a decision, because — believe it or not — it does affect how we plan our lives. We know planning things like this is hard, and that no matter what you do, you’ll be heavily criticized for it. That’s just the nature of providing a service like this. But make the decision, and allow us to start adapting soon. Because if it doesn’t go in our favour, adapting could take quite a long time.

Thank you for your consideration,

A loving and concerned parent

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