Class Notes: Charles Dickens school meets great expectations

Out-of-catchment parents of Dickens Annex students must be relieved.

Their 40 children, in Grades 1 to 3, will be guaranteed placement in Grade 4 at the main Dickens elementary school over the next three years.

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Trustees on the Vancouver School Board’s planning and facilities committee unanimously approved NPA trustee Penny Noble’s related motion Wednesday evening. The full board of trustees will vote on the motion Jan. 26.  

“We’ve seen a high level of anxiety in that parent community and we needed to bring that anxiety level down,” said Scott Robinson, VSB associate superintendent.

VSB director of instruction David Nelson previously told the Courier out-of-catchment students at the annex have always had to apply to attend the main school. But the main school has historically offered ample space and parents say they were previously told their children would definitely be able to attend Dickens Elementary starting in Grade 4.

Now the main school, for kindergarten to Grade 7 students, is filling up, and the school board accommodates in-catchment kids first.

Robinson says the committee agreed the board should revisit enrolment at Dickens main school every January to determine whether additional classroom space will be needed.

“We’re very confident we will not need an extra enrolling classroom for the upcoming school year, but there is a good possibility that we would need one for either 2016-2017 or 2017-2018,” he said.

The board will discuss options for additional classroom space with the community over the next few months. Feedback is to flow back to the committee “so that at such time when the board does need to make a decision, they’ll have that information available to them,” Robinson said.

According to Robinson’s Dickens Catchment Enrolment Update report, the main school’s library could be reconfigured to create a small classroom to house the Extended Learning Assistance Classroom, a district special education program for students with learning disabilities that has a smaller class size, for an estimated cost of $60,000. Conversely, ELAC could be relocated to another school. But families with children in the program have already expressed significant concern about this option, according to Robinson’s report.

Portables could be added to the annex or main school, for a cost of $275,000 per portable.

Out-of-catchment parent Robert Macdonell told the Courier before the meeting that he and other out-of-catchment parents want trustees to consider their family’s best interests. Their children are already immersed in the Dickens school community and enjoying Dickens’s unique multi-age approach to classroom learning and parents have made important decisions based on the expectation their children would carry on to the main school.

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