Lake Trail middle school will add Grade 6 classes from three elementary schools this fall.

Lake Trail middle school will add Grade 6 classes from three elementary schools this fall.

West Courtenay Grade 6 students moving to Lake Trail school

Grade 6 students at three west Courtenay elementary schools will be moved to Lake Trail middle school in September.

The Comox Valley School District board picked this option, one of six, Thursday night to deal with lack of space at Arden Elementary.

The move may be in effect for one or two years, depending on the district’s long-range facility plan expected to be finished in early 2018.

Arden Grade 6 students will be joined by their counterparts from Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary and Courtenay Elementary in the new cohort at Lake Trail.

About 90 students are affected.

Arden Elementary – due to growth in the area and the supreme court ruling on class size and composition – is short three classrooms for the coming school year.

Buying and installing portable classrooms isn’t an option, because the provincial education ministry wants school districts to fill up all available classrooms before providing funding for modulars.

“We were told we had to use our own space first,” superintendent Dean Lindquist explained.

Trustee Cliff Boldt put the blame for the situation entirely on the provincial government.

He also blasted the “inadequate planning” at the City of Courtenay level and the lack of communication between the City planning department and the school district.

Trustee Sheila McConnell said she was concerned “about where this problem comes from.” She said 100 students belong somewhere else, and it’s not population growth to blame.

“We need to know why kids are not in schools in their school catchment area,” she told the board.

The issue of school catchment boundaries affects the entire district, she added.

“This is a short-term solution,” she said of the plan to move Grade 6 students to Lake Trail, a Grade 7-9 school.

Trustee Peter Coleman echoed McDonnell’s concerns about school catchment boundaries.

Superintendent Lindquist, though, said legislation allows any parent the right to request their child attend any school, providing there’s space.

He said that the data and statistics the school district uses and collects indicate continued growth in the Arden school area.

Trustee Tom Weber noted that “to some degree we’ve been handed a bit of a gift” in the form of more teachers and smaller classes as a result of the supreme court ruling.

“It’s a good problem for us to have,” he said.

Weber said “the kids will be fine” with the move to Lake Trail, although he didn’t want to diminish parental concerns.

“The boundary issue is a curious one in this district. This is an incredibly small place … everything is really close. We have wrestled for years with how to deal with boundaries,” he said.

Weber agreed, though, with supporting the Lake Trail option.

“It give us the most flexibility as we move forward … it’s far less complicated and disruptive.”

Trustee Vickey Brown agreed that the Grade 6 students would weather the move fine.

She noted the concerns in Cumberland over the transition there between the elementary and middle schools.

“Our kids loved it,” she said. “I’m not terribly worried about the kids. The bigger the cohort, the better it is.”

The motion to move all west Courtenay Grade six students to Lake Trail school was passed unanimously.

Now school district staff will have to start immediately on a transition plan for the affected students.

“The transition is critical,” said Lindquist.

The school district will have a communication process in place to provide information to students, parents and teachers affected by the move. Discussions with Grade 6 teachers at all the affected schools will take place regarding what they see as essential for a positive implementation.