School reconfiguration plan meets opposition

Petition, Facebook group launched to fight proposal to change six kindergarten-to-Grade 7 schools to K-5.

Upper Sumas elementary is one of six district schools currently with students in kindergarten through Grade 7.

The Abbotsford school district’s proposal to reconfigure six rural schools in Abbotsford has met with opposition from some parents.

Last week, the district unveiled a proposal to reconfigure its remaining kindergarten-to-Grade 7 schools to match its 24 other kindergarten-to-Grade 5 elementary schools. The move, which would take effect next year, would impact Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt. Lehman and Ross elementaries in the city’s west, and Barrowtown and Upper Sumas elementaries in the east. The district also proposed changing catchment areas so Barrowtown and Upper Sumas students would attend Abbotsford middle and senior.

But some parents have come out against the move, which will be voted on by the board of education in February.

Jared White, who has two children at Upper Sumas along with a preschooler, said the current system works well for families and allows older children to help younger kids in school.

“What a blessing it is for a (kindergarten student) to have an older sibling in Grade 6 or 7 who can help them navigate their sense of belonging in the school and who can be there to stand up for them,” White wrote in a letter to the district.

White said changing the catchments the same year further complicates things, as older children like his son have already made connections at their existing catchment-area middle school.

“As educators and parents yourselves, you should be aware that consistency and structure is best for a child’s development,” White wrote. “Changing expectations and plans mid-year is going to upset a lot of children and a lot of families.”

He suggested that if the change does happen, it should be delayed until 2017 or later.

White has launched an online petition, and also formed a Facebook group, Save Our K-7 Schools, that had 120 members as of Tuesday afternoon.

One parent wrote on the group’s page: “This deeply saddens our family. One of the reasons we chose Ross elementary was the k-7! With our son being in grade 5, this is like having the carpet ripped out from underneath us … There should be fair warning, better set up of this process, not half a year notice.”

The school district has pledged to consult further with parents. Consultation meetings are anticipated to be held in January.