Parents, school district meet to discuss academy concerns at NDSS

Principal raises possibility the high school could be too full even for in-catchment students

School district officials are searching for solutions with out-of-catchment students unable to get into sport academies at Nanaimo District Secondary School next fall.

School district administration met with parents at two public meetings this week to listen to questions and concerns about the school not accepting new out-of-catchment applications for academy hopefuls.

Twenty-six out-of-catchment students have been turned away from attending NDSS sport academies next fall because the school is full. In fact, NDSS principal Geoff Steel told parents this week the school is looking at the possibility it wouldn’t have space for the students living in its own catchment.

RELATED: NDSS full, out-of-catchment lacrosse players are out of luck

According to district officials, there are more students moving into the district than expected and more than NDSS has capacity for. The high school anticipates it will have 60 more students this fall than it had in the 2017-18 school year and 75 out-of-catchment applications on top of the 26 from academy hopefuls. There’s also the court ruling around class size and composition which has created more classrooms and teaching positions and has led to a teacher shortage in the district.

Parents, most of them associated with the lacrosse academy, wanted to discuss at this week’s meetings how and why the decision was made not to allow out-of-catchment admission to academies, the decision to put the four academies in one location and ways to allow students into programs next fall.

Anne Cateaux, lacrosse academy parent, presented options on behalf of a number of families during a meeting Tuesday, such as re-opening Woodlands, adjusting boundary lines and moving international students to John Barsby. Forty-six out-of-country students are expected at NDSS next year.

“We have 10 students that unfortunately did receive that ‘sorry, you are not going to be admitted into the program’ and we will take little wins right now. We don’t have to solve every problem tonight, we don’t even have to solve the entire academy’s future … but we do want to solve it for those 10 kids,” said Cateaux, who suggested there’s no documentation to suggest an international student has any precedence over students in-catchment, out-of-catchment or out-of-district.

Tim Davie, deputy superintendent, said the emphasis is focusing on solutions.

“This is our reality, this is the challenge that we’re facing right now and as Mr. Steel said, this is his top priority, it’s one of our top priorities for our senior management team and we continue on a daily basis to take a look at solutions and there are multiple solutions that we’re looking at,” he said.

Possibilities for additional space are being looked at, including moving hockey equipment from a portable to the Nanaimo Ice Centre which would free up a general instruction room, according to Steel, who told parents he can feel the passion, appreciates the feedback and wishes the school could say the doors are open.

“I’m not trying to be the harbinger of doom as the principal that kills the academies, so we are looking for solutions,” he said.

Lacrosse parent Chris Fontenla said he’s feeling optimistic.

“I feel comfort knowing they are willing to have these meetings and listen to our concerns and also the solutions that were brought to the table,” he said.

He told the News Bulletin he’d like short-term solutions for September and once that’s resolved, to get into fixing the long term. It’s an impactful program for kids and not just about sport, but keeping kids engaged in school, he said.

Dawn Burrows, parent, believes there’s a need to push on dates, such as “when and if and if it’s realistic that this will be even overturned of if they will let the very few kids in that deserve to be here.”

Her 12-year-old son is hopeful to get into the lacrosse academy.

“It’s just a sad day when your kid really wants to be somewhere and they would have been able to go last year and then this year they are just not allowed because they live out-of-catchment,” she said.



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