Tuesday, February 7, 2012

MTS Capacity

Dear MTS Parents,

We are writing today to advise you of a concern regarding capacity and student accommodation at McKenzie Towne School. As many of you will know, last year we successfully lobbied for four relocatables to be added to our school to accommodate the students for this school year. While we were successful in having those relocatables approved, due to delays with construction and installation, it appears as if those relocatables will not be ready for students until the spring.

On January 23rd, we had a number of guests from the CBE attend our school council meeting to discuss enrolment projections for the coming years and the process involved in acquiring relocatables. We learned that our school will continue to see increasing enrolment and that capacity is quickly becoming a major concern. Based on information we were given when the school was announced in 2008, it is our position that our school was built to accommodate 450 students in its core and an additional 200 students in relocatables. The CBE is now saying that our auxiliary gymnasium, which has been used to accommodate approximately 40 grade 4 students this year, is considered a classroom. This means that according to the CBE, MTS can accommodate 475 students in its core. We strongly disagree with their position on this matter and have asked them to honour the commitment they made in 2008 regarding the core capacity of MTS. It is our view that the auxiliary gymnasium is not appropriate instructional space and should not continue to be used as classroom space next year.

With the addition of the 4 relocatables currently underway, the school will be able to accommodate 550 students next year, based on the CBE's guidelines of 25 students per classroom. We are projected to have 605 students enrolled next year. As 155 of these students will be kindergarten students, our enrolment is considered to be 528 full-time equivalent students. In order to accommodate that number of students in the space that we have, we will no doubt see larger class sizes, split grades, an impact on programming and the use of non-instructional spaces for classroom teaching. It is important to understand that these enrolment figures have been in line with the expectations of how and when the school would grow. This is not unexpected growth.

This school year has seen two grade 4 classes sharing the auxiliary gymnasium as a classroom and one kindergarten class having to use common space as part of their classroom centres. In our view, this is unacceptable. It is our belief that all students should have appropriate instructional space in which to learn. The CBE has made a formal request for an additional 4 relocatables to be built on the east side of the school. We have been advised that in order to have those in place for September, the CBE would need government approval by the end of February.

We have been told that once the CBE hears whether or not the additional 4 relocatables are approved, they will consider a timeline for discussions with the community regarding future capacity at MTS. Should the relocatables not be approved, we will reach our capacity by the end of the next school year and decisions will need to be made about the future of MTS. Even if we do receive the relocatables, capacity will be reached within a couple of years. We have communicated our desire to be involved in any discussions and decisions around how capacity is managed at MTS, whether that be by capping school enrolment, changing the grades of the school or any other options considered.

We are asking the parent community to once again get involved in this important issue. We have seen in the past how our efforts to effect change have been successful when we have worked together. Please consider contacting our current MLA, Art Johnston and the Education Minister, Thomas Lukaszuk to share your concerns and ask that the additional relocatables be approved by the end of February. Representatives from the school council will be trying to arrange a meeting with Mr. Johnston and will continue to communicate with both the Ministry of Education and the CBE, but we need your help. We have been told in the past that individual letters from parents have a bigger impact than a petition or one letter on behalf of all parents. In addition, we encourage you to share your vision of McKenzie Towne School with the CBE. Let them know what is important to you about student accommodation. Contact information is as follows:

Honourable Thomas Lukaszuk, Minister of Education
423 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB, T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018
Email: jeff.kasbrick@gov.ab.ca (Executive Asst to the Minister)

MLA Art Johnston
255, 11488-24 Street SE
Calgary, AB, T2Z 4C9
Phone: (403) 215-4380
Fax: (403) 215-4383
Email: calgary.hays@assembly.ab.ca

Trustee Carol Bazinet
1221- 8 Street S.W.
Calgary AB T2R 0L4
Phone: 403-817-7930
Fax: 403-294-8282
E-mail: cabazinet@cbe.ab.ca

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