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.