Twelve-year-old Jayden Thomas has the support of the coach to join Nanaimo District Secondary School’s field lacrosse academy, but the high school is too full to take him.
He’s devastated, he said.
Nanaimo families are raising the alarm after learning NDSS is full and not accepting any new applicants from out-of-catchment, including for sport academies.
There are a number of academies for sports and the arts in local public schools, but no more than at NDSS where student athletes can focus on development in beach volleyball, soccer, hockey or field lacrosse while doing academic work.
This year, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools warned families that it may not be able to accommodate out-of-catchment or academy application requests like it has in the past because of class-size and composition requirements and higher enrolment. At NDSS, which is full, 26 students who applied to academies from out-of-catchment have been told there’s no room for them, according to the district.
A forum has started online for the lacrosse academy, and a press release from a group of parents show they are seeking a forum with the board chairman and senior administrators at the district.
Desiree Harris, mother of Jayden Thomas, said if her son didn’t make the team, that’s fine, but the response from the coach was he had a spot on the team. She’s “horrified” by the situation.
“For three years, we’ve been told as parents that the academies at NDSS was district-wide programming that would be open to students, so if they got into the academies they had a spot at the school,” said Harris, who doesn’t understand how the district didn’t see this coming. “When you’re planning and you know that your school has an ‘x’ amount of capacity, how did you not see that having four academies plus French immersion all at one school was not going to become an issue?”
Andrea Sanders’s 14-year-old son Jake McInnes thought he was a “shoo-in” after hearing the lacrosse academy coach wanted him, but received a letter Sunday from the school saying it is not able to accept new out-of-catchment applications. McInnes lives in the Cedar catchment.
Sanders said her concern is her son has an opportunity for an amazing future within the lacrosse academy program, to get scholarships and get a great education.
“By forcing him to stay within catchment they are failing him; they are not allowing him to have these opportunities,” said Sanders, who wants the district to overturn the decision to shut the door on out-of-catchment applications.
Wesley Tyre, a coach for the Nanaimo Raiders field lacrosse team, said that the school cannot accept out-of-catchment students will mean the program will be no more than than a minor school club team within three years.
“The intake of junior players will be diminished in quantity and quality, making it unviable at the junior level and the senior level after the current group of grade 8/9s work their way through the academy,” he said in an e-mail, adding there’s a great collection of quality recruits within school district boundaries but not enough within catchment to support the program long-term.
According to Robyn Gray, assistant superintendent of secondaries, class size and composition and enrolment have put a “huge strain” on facilities district-wide. Ultimately it’s schools, in collaboration with district administrators like herself, that decide if they can accept out-of-catchment students and she said NDSS cannot accommodate any more classes.
She said she doesn’t believe the decision will impact how academies currently function and would tell parents concerned about the health and longevity of the lacrosse program that it’s still strong, still vital and is an excellent program for the kids who are in it.
“I am certain that there’s disappointment for those families that were so looking forward to it,” she said. “I would hope that they could let the schools that they are presently in catchment for, know of their interest in some of their passions and what they’re inspired by and certainly look at what we can do in their home school that would help to support some of their own personal interests.”
The district expects enrolment to continue to increase and Gray said there will be continued challenges in 2019-2020 around out-of-catchment for programs of choice.
She did say the district would look at how it can support the future of its academies and and that it could consider moving academies so they are not focused at one school.