School board staff have recommended closing Munster Elementary School due to declining enrolment, but residents are ready to fight to save their community school.
The school currently has the lowest enrolment of any public school in Ottawa: only 54 students in a school that has capacity for 219.
Ottawa Carleton District School Board staff looked at several options to increase enrolment, including changing school boundaries and adding a french immersion program. They decided the number of students would still be too low, and have recommended that the school be closed starting in 2015-2016.
Parents in Munster are meeting this Sunday at Danby’s Bar and Grill in Munster to discuss a strategy to convince the school board and trustees to keep the school open.
Jessica Breckenridge, secretary of the Munster Elementary School council, believes the school board’s enrolment projections are too low, and that there are enough students ready to enter senior kindergarten next year to make a big enough class.
She’s been canvassing parents in the community to get a more accurate count of the number of pre-school kids in Munster.
(Editor’s note: Breckenridge would like to hear from parents of pre-school children who she has not been in touch with yet to include them in her collection of data. You can reach her at pearl7546
“It is clear that the large majority of parents would send their children to Munster Elementary if EFI (early french immersion) was offered at our local school,” she says.”While this is still a small number I believe the numbers could grow in future years,” she says.
“There’s no question that Munster ES is highly valued, but the challenge all along has been one of numbers,” said Lynn Scott, the school board trustee for the area.
“Are there enough young children in the Munster area to maintain a viable English program, or to maintain a viable Early French Immersion program? With such small numbers of children, is it possible to provide a quality of educational experience comparable to that in other schools? Are there any alternatives? What will be best for the children? These are not easy questions,” she said.
Eryn Konkle is a parent of three children who are in french immersion at A. Lorne Cassidy school. She was part of the working group that provided feedback to school board staff in their review of Munster Elementary’s enrolment. She agrees with the board’s recommendation to close the school.
“I feel for the people in Munster, it’s a hard thing to stomach (when you have to close a school). The biggest thing to focus on is our kids’ education. The board is in the business of providing education, not community centres,” she said.
Konkle says even if Munster Elementary changed its boundaries or added an EFI program, the projected enrolment numbers would still be too low.
“In the Munster catchment area, there are fewer than about 300 kids available period, including public and catholic, english and french,” says Konkle. “Those numbers were not sufficient for us to feel that it was a viable program.”
Breckenridge sees small class sizes as an advantage.
“MES is a great school and while the numbers have become almost too low now with the English program I think there are also benefits to have small class sizes providing children with greater interaction with their teachers,” said Breckenridge.
- Sunday, January 18 at 2:00pm: Planning meeting at Danby’s Bar and Grill in Munster. Organized by Munster residents who want to keep the school open.
- Tuesday, January 20 at 7:00pm: Committee of the Whole meeting at OCDSB headquarters, 133 Greenbank Road. Staff report will be discussed with trustees.
- Tuesday, February 17 at 7:30pm: Committee of the Whole meeting at OCDSB headquarters. Debate and vote on staff report recommendation.
- Tuesday, February 24 at 7:30pm: School board trustee meeting. Final vote and decision.
- Parents are sharing information about upcoming events and activities on the Munster Community Association Facebook Page.
Should Munster Elementary School stay open? Do you have any ideas on how to increase the enrolment? Add your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org