Dear Friends in Ward 7:
Knocking on doors and speaking to parents across the Central Mountain, one of the most common concerns that I have heard is school boundaries.
As it stands now, children are forced to attend a specific school depending on where they live and what the school boundaries are.
The idea that the Board can unilaterally define school boundaries and force a child to attend one school or another just seems so authoritarian and outdated to modern parents.
Instead, I believe that parents should have the freedom to send their child to either their home school, or to any other school they choose.
If elected Trustee, I will work to implement a three year pilot program that would allow parents the freedom to choose which school their children attend.
Please read the details of my proposal below.
Public School Trustee Candidate
Ward 7 Hamilton Central Mountain
Question and Answer with Ward 7 Central Mountain Trustee Candidate Dawn Danko Regarding Her Plan to Give Parents Freedom To Choose Where Their Children Attend School
Why do you think it is important to allow parents to choose where their children attend school?
There are many reasons why parents might want to send their children to a school other than their home school.
For example, it may be more convenient for a family to send their children to a school that is closer to their babysitter rather than to their family home. Or maybe parents are just fed up with the physical condition or facilities of their home school. I know of families that have actually moved in order to get their child out of a bad situation at their home school and of other families that use a friend or relative’s address to get their children into the school of their choice.
Another significant issue that I have heard as I have been knocking on doors and speaking to parents across the Central Mountain is that the recent wave of school closures has created a number of artificial school boundaries.
These new artificial boundaries have resulted in a number of bizarre situations where siblings have been split up, groups of peers have been separated and students that live very close to one school are being forced to attend a different school that is much further away.
For example, one student who was going to a school that was closed was forced to attend a different school than all of his friends – even though he lived across the street!
The fact is the public school board is in direct competition with other school boards for enrolment.
Modern parents are increasingly demanding these kinds of choices in their child’s education – so as a board, let’s be proactive and just provide what families want.
Can’t Parents Apply For Out Of Catchment Now?
Yes, but as it stands now, out of catchment requests are approved or denied at each individual school.
It is an ad hoc system at best – and at worst throws up all kinds of unnecessary roadblocks to parents who have very real reasons for sending their children to an out of catchment school.
I want to make sure that if parents would like to send their children to an out of catchment school, there is a clear and equitable way for them to do it.
Won’t this cause staffing difficulties for the board?
We already allow French immersion students, students attending systems schools, enrichment and special needs students to attend out of catchment schools – so I am simply proposing that we extend this privilege to all students.
As long as the program is implemented correctly, there is no reason that we cannot plan ahead for staffing.
For example, if the deadline to apply to attend an out of catchment school was in early spring, before the board finalizes staffing requirements for the upcoming year, there would be no difference in the planning process.
Further, under the current forced boundary model, staffing requirements are often revised in September after school starts when actual classroom attendance has been confirmed – so I don’t see any significant change to the process.
Of course, there would have to be some restrictions in place. For example, schools that are already over capacity would not be able to accept additional out of catchment students – but we will still have school boundaries and most students are going to attend their home school by default, so I really do not think it would be much of a challenge to offer parents the simple choice of which school their child attends.
Wouldn’t we risk declining enrolment at stigmatized schools?
Unfortunately, the fact is that schools that parents see as “bad schools” already face declining enrolment due to reputation. Parents often simply choose to send their children to the nearest Catholic school instead of the public system.
Forcing children into a bad educational environment or into a building with poor facilities simply to maintain enrolment is just covering up the underlying problem. I personally find it very disturbing that a child’s education could be compromised in this way.
Instead, I think we must do a much better job of actively dealing with problems in our educational system instead of covering them up.
The bottom line is that if a school has an amazing educational environment and well maintained facilities, parents will want to send their children there – we owe this privilege to all students.
Couldn’t this lead to have and have-not schools, or to parents boycotting specific schools or teachers by sending their kids to a different school?
“Switching schools is not something that most parents would take lightly, so I don’t see parents moving their children to a different school without a very good reason.
But again, I believe that as a board, we need to deal with problems in our schools, rather than simply ignoring them and forcing students to endure.
In fact, carefully tracking enrolment changes under this program would be an excellent opportunity to fine tune our educational system by being able to truly identify educational environments that parents are attracted to and also educational cultures that parents avoid.
I believe in evidence based decision making and I believe this program could give us a much better understanding of which schools might need a little extra attention.”
Do you expect there to be resistance to your proposal?
“I expect that this is not something that board administrators would want to do. In my experience, the board planners and executive are very good at coming up with all kinds of excuses why something cannot be done.
But, the idea that we can’t improve the way we do things just because it is something that has not been done before is, frankly, an attitude that I intend to see changed at the public school board.
Of course, it will be important to study the results of the program, and make adjustments as necessary, but I think that this is a relatively simple plan that parents and students will really appreciate.”
What do you think?
Dawn Danko would love to know what you think about her plan – please leave a comment below!
WHAT YOUR NEIGHBOURS SAY ABOUT DAWN DANKO