A large group of parents are fighting to keep the ‘traditional’ in the name of Cloverdale Traditional School.
Recently, the Greater Victoria School District announced both Cloverdale and South Park Family schools will no longer be schools of choice and will instead become regular stream elementary schools. It’s part of a district-wide boundary catchment review.
However, Cloverdale and South Park are the most affected.
There are also questions about the student body at the high-needs Victor School in Fernwood, as it is also proposed to become a regular stream elementary with a catchment.
By giving Cloverdale and South Park a catchment, it will alleviate the pressures that George Jay and Quadra elementary schools are facing as both are at capacity, according to the district. The changes come as district expects an increase of 1,800 additional students in the next few years on top of the current 20,000 student population.
However, parents at Cloverdale believe the benefits their children receive from Cloverdale being a school of choice are too valuable to sacrifice.
“We have some angry parents,” said Starr Munro, a mom whose first child went through Cloverdale and whose daughter is in Grade 3. Munro is also representative of the school’s parent advisory council. “The model is working, it’s in demand, we don’t understand why it should go.”
Munro said Cloverdale plans to unite at its Tuesday PAC meeting in launching a campaign to keep the school’s culture and themes exactly as they are. Past and future parents are all invited to share their concerns and to come together and suggest solutions, Munro said.
Schools of choice exist under slightly different rules as they use a district-wide catchment, and are not bound by a catchment. Cloverdale offers extra themes under the label of a ‘traditional’ model which, as Munro points out, isn’t about traditional learning methods.
“Traditional schools are defined by their greater emphasis on the traditional values of citizenship, responsibility, and respect” as well as “the wearing of student uniforms, active parent involvement and educational structure,” explained Munro.
Cloverdale’s values system is updated in a handbook each year.
“You have to see it to understand it but the respect is built in,” she said. “We have parents who buy into our guiding principles and value system. Every school has a community and culture but we have a specific one that we buy into, and we believe that culture impacts learning in a positive way.”
But now everything, starting with the uniforms, is on the table to make way for the district’s growing student population.
Secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh clarified that the uniforms are bound to go but added elementary schools are afforded room to create their own culture.
The question is, how will becoming a catchment school affect the ability to retain the culture. Munro said families are attracted to Cloverdale because of the culture and demand is high. Not everyone gets in to Cloverdale. Until last year Cloverdale and South Park each had a years-long wait list for kindergarten entry. Those wait lists were scrapped last year when SD61 brought in a new student enrolment policy.
“We don’t know, this is a question we’ll be exploring, but it’s kind of the last choice for us,” Munro said. “We want to approach this with solutions. Once we have a better idea of the solutions, we feel like there are creative solutions to be explored.