Youngest grades at Laronde ‘not viable’

Laronde Elementary - File photo
Laronde Elementary
— image credit: File photo

The future of kindergarten and Grade 1 in Laronde Elementary’s English-speaking program is in question due to declining enrolment.
According to a letter sent out to parents last week from Surrey School District assistant Supt. Rick Ryan, there are two Laronde students enrolled in kindergarten this year, and “all indications are that the kindergarten-aged population will be very low again next year.”
“At this point, we are anticipating that a K/1 combined class will not be viable for next school year,” the letter states.
Currently, all Engish-speaking kindergartens, Grade 1s and Grades 2s are in one class of 17 students.
Without the K/1 split, it is unclear how the grades would be grouped, said district spokesperson Doug Strachan, who noted the French-immersion program includes kindergarten and Grade 1.
“The first thing is to meet with the parents at Laronde and really go from there as needed.”
A meeting is scheduled for March 1, 6:30-8 p.m., at the 1880 Laronde Dr. school, when parents are invited to discuss the situation.
“We have to be responsible enough to look at contingencies and give everyone involved as much notice as possible,” Strachan told Peace Arch News Monday, noting the district is “hopeful” the class size will be sufficient by the time enrolments are confirmed for next year.
“The way it’s looking right now, there’s definitely not enough students to make that class. There’s still a bit of time, but that’s one of the things we have to be prepared to consider.”
Although students can enrol “right up to the day of classes beginning, and beyond that,” Strachan said the future of the class will be determined sooner.
“For planning purposes and the resources that need to be allocated and decided for the school year… those types of decisions are really tied to the budget decisions, which must be made this spring.”
If a kindergarten/Grade 1 class is not made available, the district will secure placements for children who require kindergarten or Grade 1 at neighbouring schools that have capacity, Ryan’s letter states.
“Parent choice of a neighbouring school will be our first consideration.”
Additionally, the district will assist if a kindergarten or Grade 1 student has a sibling at Laronde, and parents request both children be placed at a neighbouring school, the letter says.
It goes on to say the district will explore, if necessary, the possibilities of expanding capacity where possible at neighbouring schools to assist with securing placements that are acceptable to parents.
Strachan said there are four other elementary schools in the Elgin area – Ocean Cliff, Crescent Park, Ray Shepherd and Chantrell Creek.
This is not the first time Laronde Elementary has faced restructuring due to dwindling enrolment.
It was this time last year that the district proposed to adjust catchment boundaries and shift half of Laronde’s French-immersion program to Ray Shepherd for the 2010-2011 school year to address declining enrolment in Laronde’s English-speaking program.
The plan was shelved, and Laronde instead took measures to rebuild its English program.

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