OPINION: Closing Munster school would be detrimental to community

Stittsville resident Omar Sultan attended Wednesday’s public meeting about the future of Munster Elementary School.  He is the president of Munster Cooperative Nursery School.


 

Approximately 180 people turned out December 3 to discuss the future of Munster Elementary School, located in the little Hamlet of Munster.

The school is currently experiencing all-time low enrollment numbers.  A study was commissioned to bring forth valid options to increase numbers. The most likely option was to make EFI programming available in this currently all-English school.

Seeing as many students in the area are sent out of Munster to attend EFI, it would make perfect sense to offer the program at MES and start bringing the students home, within walking distance of an already functioning school.

Suggested courses of action were presented in 4 parts by the school board.

  • Option A – New SK-5 EFI program at Munster ES
  • Option B – Munster ES remains status quo
  • Option C – Munster ES directed to A. Lorne Cassidy ES
  • Option D – Munster ES directed to A. Lorne Cassidy ES and Richmond PS

Option C and D supports the complete closure of Munster ES.

There were many emotional arguments and comments supporting the Munster ES not only as a community hub, but as a functional ES.

Many comments were also heard opposing option A.  These comments were generally from families currently attending A. Lorne Cassidy ES.  It is not ideal for any families to change schools and their objections are well-understood.

Comments were heard from the Country Club Village and some surrounding residents who supported using Fallowfield as the north-south dividing line for who would be included in Option A as these parents already have students enrolled in EFI at ALC and strongly objected to moving schools given their close proximity to Stittsville.

Option A, which one would assume to be the most viable option, was almost immediately dismissed by the board speaker. The low projected numbers caused concern that the option would not provide a viable English and EFI dual stream program.  Although the board maintained they had not made a final decision, the general attitude of the speaker portrayed the fact that they were no longer looking at solutions to increase enrollment, but had shifted their gaze towards how to most efficiently transfer the students to other schools.

The board speaker seemed to be suggesting option C or D as the most likely outcome.

Reasons why you may ask? Several reasons were given regarding the best interest of the children involved. Questions of triple split level classes and quality of education were brought forth.

Fact of the matter is, the split level classes are not ideal. This was the main reason the motion was brought forth to try to increase enrolment. As for quality of education, Munster ES matches or exceeds all other schools in the area. Given the national standards report, Munster ES has shown a steady increase over the past few years in all categories of testing and is able to compete on all levels with Stittsville schools academically and on the extracurricular level.

The board mentioned often the challenges involved with smaller rural schools but did not reference any of the benefits such as smaller class sizes, more one on one instruction, easier identification of students needs, less chance of bullying, less chance of crime. An all round nicer, more personal education system can be offered, which is highly desirable to the majority of parents. Encouraging 600+ students in an ES is ridiculous.

Option A also involved maintaining the current English school boundaries and making them the EFI boundaries. This would make the program completely viable. Unfortunately, we heard from residents north of Fallowfield Road who stated they would refuse to send their kids to Munster ES as they preferred A. Lorne Cassidy ES.  They felt they were more in line, and part of Stittsville. These residents, who would account for approximately 30 students in the coming 2015 school year, put up enough fuss that the board caved and decided to accept their opinion.  This group demanded that the boundaries not include them and the board felt they may have a point.

Unfortunately, this group is not a part of Stittsville. They do not vote in Stittsville, they are not even close to Stittsville. Bottom line, a rural community, should go to their rural school.

As one passionate speaker pointed out, if you live in the country you expect to drive everywhere you go.

We have a clear example of the squeaky wheel, getting the grease. Unfortunately, in this case, these small numbers of people are trying to decide the fate of an entire community.

With the future predicted growth of Stittsville, the spots in the Stittsville schools will be needed by actual Stittsville residents. Some current residents of Stittsville who live within 1.6 km of A. Lorne Cassidy, are not able to attend there. They are bussed twice the distance to other schools.

Other comments by the board included the fact that there is no predicted growth or development for Munster. This is unfortunate, however, attempts to sever lots and build subdivisions in and around Munster are constantly denied by the city.

The city does not want Munster to grow, and now they want to take away their school and community hub.

The board stated it would be too harmful to move the 30 students from A. Lorne Cassidy to Munster ES. They mention they do not want to move students around unless they really have to. They did not however share the same opinion with the 58 Munster ES students. They seemed quite comfortable to move these students out. They even mentioned the fact that they may be brought back in, in the case Munster ES be used as a holding school, when Stittsville and Richmond become over crowded.  There could be two moves for the Munster students, none for the A. Lorne Cassidy students

The question of wasting tax money arose. To be clear, they cannot mothball the school. It will have to be maintained, heated, and ready for use by the community. All the staff will be relocated so there is no gain there.  All the current students will now have to be bussed somewhere else, so there is an increase in transportation cost.

There is no real financial gain until the school is disposed of and sold. This would not happen for a number of years and possibly never due to the possible future need of the school as a holding school.  Would it be prudent spending of the tax dollar to spend 300 million on a new school to be built 5 km away? Or would it not be better to slowly transition this school into a functioning EFI program.

No decision was made at the meeting. They will review all discussion and present the final decision in February 2015.

Overall, the Munster community overwhelmingly supported the School and an EFI program. Residents outside of Munster mainly objected. The study presented was extremely flawed and the board even told the crowd not to pay any attention to the numbers presented as they basically mean nothing. Opinions offered, for and against, were presented. The speaker for the board gave the impression of recommending option D.

Can we close this school? No. There would be insignificant savings, and a detrimental loss to Munster, not to mention the closure of the Munster Co-Op Nursery School, which has educated the young minds in the area for over 30years.

Should we consider an EFI program?  The people of Munster thought so. The program is more than viable with the current boundaries. If we want to increase numbers at the school, you have to give people a reason to go there.

Although there would be objections at first, the school would soon thrive like it once did. Families would be more likely to move to the area knowing they could send their kids to school there. There is a steady real estate turnover in the community.

The city made a mistake by cutting off growth in Munster. The school board made a mistake by not appropriately dealing with the sudden decline in enrollment in a timely fashion.  Instead of fixing their mistakes, there is an inclination to sweep it under the rug.

The future is what needs to be considered.  A short term sacrifice needs to be made to achieve long term viability. Stittsville and Richmond will soon be unable to accommodate Munster students.  Use the school we have.  Let the families walk to school. Would you want your 3 year old on a bus for up to 2 hours a day? I wouldn’t.

Please send in your comments immediately. Chose which option you feel is appropriate, or your general opinion, and send in your thoughts. You can email EFIatMunster@ocdsb.ca. Deadline is December 17.


You can find more information about the options presented at the December 3 meeting here. Board staff will prepare a recommendation report on the future of Munster ES in early 2015.

 


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9 thoughts on “OPINION: Closing Munster school would be detrimental to community”

  1. EFI does not make sense in Munster, because there would not be effectively enough EFI students to make a proper program, as the study has revealed.

  2. I agree that with the proposed boundaries, it would be difficult to have an EFI program. If the boundaries were to remain as they currently are for the English program, the study showed that there would be sufficient numbers to implement an EFI program. The problem lies in the fact that there is a push by the CCVA to change the boundaries so that their children would be able to attend a school in Stittsville. A school which is 3km further away from their houses than Munster Elementary. I would argue that they should remain within the boundaries of MES as they are a rural community in closer proximity to Munster than Stittsville. This would also allow for a viable EFI program. This would in turn open up well needed spots in Stittsville schools to Stittsville residents.

  3. No, the study revealed that even the optimistic EFI numbers in the long run in the current English catchment area, as is, are already too weak to be viable, both financially, and wrt the quality of education. Plus considering the people that would switch away from the board and you end up with numbers well below any acceptable standards.
    That marginal 3km advantage goes away once the Jenkinson Road construction is completed. Bus routes also aren’t direct, and you can’t predict the length of a bus route, or the number of stops.
    The CCV doesn’t have any connections to or business in Munster. Stittsville is where all the connections and activities are. It’s on the way to work. Munster is completely foreign, and its location is completely the wrong way.

  4. As a member of the Working committee and having attended all board meetings regarding this issue, this article disappoints me.
    I am a mother of 3 children attending ALC and do not support bringing EFI to MES. I do not live in CCV but do live in the affected boundary.
    The numbers DO NOT support a viable program any way you look at it. On Sept 30 at the Working Group meeting #1, the board presented the projected numbers for an EFI program at MES. The high being approx. 70 kids and the low being approx. 50 kids by 2019 when the program is fully running (pg 14 WG #1) . At meeting #2 The majority consensus with all communities involved, was that those numbers were not viable. AFTER that we discussed boundaries that made sense. Many people do not want to move their kids from ALC, however if you listen to the parents, you will hear that it is a NUMBERS ISSUE. What bothers me is that no one is talking about the dying English program at MES. How are we best serving those kids??? We are not benefiting any children by adding a second none viable program to MES. We are however, possible saving a building. I can empathise with the community of Munster possibly loosing their local school, however to ask parents to bring their kids to a school that is not in their community of interest and is not offering viable programming all to save THIER building, is not reasonable. It needs to be known that there are people within the 4 quadrants of Munster that are opposed to this. Even living within Munster and potentially being offered a program in their backyard, they are not willing to compromise their child’s enriched education that is provided within a thriving, sustainable program.
    There are several wrong opinions noted in this article that are made as fact. With respect to planning growth, please contact Scott Moffatt for accurate info regarding city planning. It was brought up in a WG meeting that the city had offered Munster the infrastructure for future growth. We were told that Munster did not want to develop despite being told this could impact school enrollment at a later date.
    Its disappointing that you have so many opinions but have never been in attendance for any of the meetings.

  5. I’m a neutral party in this debate, but I felt the need to comment since you contradict yourself in a few areas…You are arguing that the CCV community should do the very thing you don’t want to happen to the Munster community – be forced to do something they are opposed to. No one wants to see a school close and a community disrupted. No one is arguing that Munster is a great area. At the Dec. 3rd meeting, someone spoke and clarified that the working group made the decision regarding the new proposed boundary – not the CCV community. Which leads me to ask – if an entire community is in consensus against something – why would you force them to do otherwise? Do we not live in a democratic society? They may not vote in Stittsville, but they contribute to its’ economic success and growth. Just as you choose and are free to contribute to the Munster community as the President of their nursery school, even though you are a resident of Stittsville (and do not vote in Munster), so are the CCV residents also free to align their lives with Stittsville. It has nothing to do with Munster – but more with their own personal choices . And FYI – the children from CCV would still endure a lengthy bus ride so they are not necessarily that much closer and wouldn’t be able to “let the families walk.” It sounds likely that you are more concerned with opening “well needed spots in Stittsville schools to Stittsville residents” since “Stittsville and Richmond will soon be unable to accommodate Munster students.” But – if you genuinely feel that “the future is what needs to be considered”, then perhaps you should take a closer look and consider the future of ALL communities involved and what is TRULY most viable.

    1. Thank you for your reply. It is good to get the input of impartial people. I do not believe there is any contradiction in my post. I am not asking for the CCV to close down their school and village centre.
      You are correct. We do live in a democratic society. Perhaps it should be put to an official vote to all residents of the current catchment. The working groups decisions did not reflect the view of the general public. Although I believe the work they did great, and the time they put in was exhausting, I’ve heard many requests to challenge the validation of the reports, which, they felt, came across self serving to some and not to others, and was filled with inaccuracies.
      As far as contributing to economic success and growth, should I expect to have my kids bussed into Kanata? As I do a lot of shopping there? Or should I have them bussed downtown? As that is where I work, and their doctors offices are downtown?
      This city belongs to all of us and everyone is encouraged to be a part of all the communities. I am heavily involved in the Stittsville community. I have many ties to the hamlet of Munster as well, and I also chose to be an involved parent in my children’s co-op nursery school. People are definitely allowed to align their lives wherever they wish, however, they cannot expect the school board to accommodate their choice of community. Boundaries are set by township, and residential address. Not where you buy your shirts, or where you work, or where prefer to go out to dinner.
      We could let 50 students, give or take, continue to walk to school, or we can bus 80 to somewhere else. North of Fallowfield will have to bus regardless of any school they attend. Can you imagine the uproar when they discover they will have to bus their kids to Richmond to go to high school? Not much alignment there.
      As for the personal attack on my comment regarding opening spots in stittsville schools, this was a valid concern raised by others, who were not involved in the working groups. People who would be affected but were not invited to offer opinion. It is not solely my opinion. I do agree that it is a concern that will have to be addressed in the future as more developments are completed. Changes in this, would in no way effect the location of my children’s school and therefore is not seen to me to be a self serving opinion to offer.
      The future is what needs to be looked at for sure. What’s viable in Ottawa, is a bilingual education. At this point, it should be near impossible to find a school offering only English programs.

  6. Thank you for your reply. The meeting opened with the speaker for the board stating the numbers looked good when they considered using the original English boundaries. I am merely reiterating what was presented at the meeting. It was then discounted as a viable option as residents north of Fallowfield road felt they belonged in Stittsville schools as they aligned better with Stittsville. Consider the perspective, that the alignement logic, is not a widespread method of determining boundaries in rural neighborhoods. Consider Corkery, which alligns with Almonte and Kanata. The students are sent to Huntley in Carp. Consider Arbourbrook Estates, and most of the Carp road corridor, who also aligns with Stittsville and are sent to Huntley. Huntley would lose a large population of their school if this alignment idea was to be applied to their boundaries. Perhaps a global study would be commissioned at some point looking at all the boundaries in the area. Until then, it would be a knee jerk reaction to attempt to change boundaries at this point. If a school was built in or around the CCV, would you send your children there? It wouldn’t align with where you work, or participate in activities, or shop. Also, there is no significant cost savings until the school is sold. The board was pretty certain they would not sell it anytime soon, as it may be required as a holding school for Stittsville and Richmond students in the near future.

  7. I would like to emphasize that the work done by the working groups was very much appreciated. We all know how hard everyone worked. That being said, the board speaker did state that the number projections provided were not to be taken at face value as they were projections only, and may not be accurate. It also seems that perhaps it was not clear, however, I understand that any current students at ALC, would remain there, and it would only be new incoming students sent to Munster. As far as community of interest is concerned, I have replied to the previous comment about the alignment issue.
    Another disappointing view I keep coming across, is that you feel the education being provided at Munster ES is substandard, and not as enriched as Stittsville schools. As a member of the working groups, I would have hoped that you would have looked into that, and seen that it is simply not correct.
    As for planning info, Scott Moffat would not be the one to contact. The reality of the situation, is that Munster requested no development within a 1km distance. This was accepted by the city. Since then, several severance applications, and development applications, outside of the 1km distance, but still very close to Munster, have been denied. The city has also instituted a moratorium on estate lots in the entire city. The majority of developments in the area would have been estate lots. This is not Munster denying growth, this is the city.
    Although I was not able to make it to all the meetings, I have kept very close tabs on all the developments within the process.

  8. Munster has currently 52 students in its English program. The official document shows that two of its grades have just 2 students in them. It’s already at risk of having 0 kids for a grade, with the ongoing bailing that’s been happening. 2 years from now it’s projected to be 48. Further along it shows no improvement.
    EFI at Munster shows long term projected numbers ranging from 55 to 72. But that’s shown together with English projected numbers from 68 to 87. Clearly, those English numbers are highly inflated, because they don’t agree with the reality (47) at all.
    That’s a discrepancy of at least 25%.
    Take away 25% from 55 for EFI, and you get 41 kids. That’s 6 kids per grade. As seen with the English program, fluctuations can be huge, varying from 2 to 17. You’re running a very good risk of having multiple grades with 0 students in them. Imagine having a single students having to join two grades up.
    For this reason the overwhelming majority does not want this, resulting in a further snowball effect.

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