Parents speak out on Munster Elementary options

Munster Elementary School

Low enrolment at Munster Elementary  is putting the facility at risk of closure.  The school board is holding a public meeting on December 3 to discuss options to keep the school open, including introducing a new french immersion program.

We asked parents about their thoughts and concerns regarding some of the proposed changes.

My concern about this comes from many angles. I grew up in Munster and attended MES at a time that the community was thriving and full of young kids. The school was still small, but it was full. I had a fantastic experience there and I think part of me is just sad to see it come to this: that a place I remember as being such a positive, important part of my childhood in Munster is being closed.

I look back at those times and think, wow, if only kids today could experience that: a small, caring, community school that they could walk to, a school that was a central part of Munster life. It makes me so sad to think that a resource that could be so valuable, if properly utilized, will be shut down. Munster is a reasonably isolated community already. I think shipping kids out of Munster and closing down the one remaining central facility is just such a bad idea. My parents still live in Munster I have many friends there. I’m very attached to the community and want to see it thrive.

We have five kids. My oldest three went through the nursery school located in MES, the Munster Cooperative Nursery School. My 4th child currently attends MCNS and my fifth will go next year. My husband is president of the MCNS and has been for 4 years now. We are very involved and invested in the nursery school. This involvement has also led to us bring a part of the community as a whole, and we have a good understanding of the issues at hand, and a relationship with many Munster residents. After attending MCNS, our kids went to SPS and that is where they are now. That said, they have many friends in Munster and we are out there often.

If MES closes down, MCNS is at real risk of doing the same. So part of my interest is also in seeing MES stay open so that MCNS can stay open. There is not really another facility suitable for MCNS in Munster. I truly believe the nursery school will have to shut down if MES closes it’s doors. Currently, MCNS leases a room in MES. Even if the facility stayed open for MCNS use, we would have to incur too many additional expenses to make it a viable option. For example, currently we pay a portion of the snow clearing and heating and janitorial costs associated with keeping the school  running. If the school board no longer uses the facility, we’d have to shoulder those costs alone, and it would be prohibitive. There are also safety concerns with the preschool teacher being alone in the facility so we would have to hire another teacher. For a nursery school as small as we are, that is a financial impossibility.

Finally, as mentioned, my kids go to SPS. It is bursting at the seams. Westwind and ALC (and Richmond PS) are the schools more directly affected by the attendance boundaries than SPS is, but it’s all related and the overcrowding at those schools will only serve to increase the overcrowding at mine. MES is a well maintained facility with beautiful open spaces, green space etc, and it is a huge shame to see it go to waste, only to continue to overcrowd the already taxed Stittsville/Richmond facilities. I would like to see the attendance boundaries overall in our Goulbourn area (Stittsville/Richmond/Munster) adjusted to better utilize all the facilities available. I know I am in the minority in that I’d be fine with my kids being bussed to Munster in order to take advantage of their facility. Most residents in Stittsville want their kids to stay in Stittsville. But if you turn that argument around, most residents of Munster want their kids to stay in Munster!! (if there are programs available to suit the wants, for example EFI).

–Jessica Sultan

I am replying as a Munster resident, parent of a MES student, Munster Community Association School Liaison and a member of the Board’s working group on this topic.

Munster Elementary School is a very well maintained facility with an oversized gym, large classrooms and a huge yard. It has always been a smaller school with a capacity of just over 200 and this definitely has the feel of a community school.  School events become whole community events with children from all schools attending activities such as our recent Halloween Dance.

Personally I was drawn to the school because of the close knit feel and being able to really know your children’s classmates, teachers and the families in your community.  Last year my daughter attended the Munster Co-Operative Nusery School which is also located in the school and it was an excellent program and provided a great way to transition children into school.  My daughter is now in the kindergarten class at MES and is having a wonderful experience and I receive a lot of communication with her teachers.

As a community space the facility is used by many outside groups for activities and programs on the evening and weekends.

The declining enrolment at MES is very concerning for the parents, students and the greater community of Munster.  One of the main reasons for this decline is the steady increase in parents choosing the EFI program for their children.  In Munster with the interest in EFI this results in many parents sending their children to ALC for EFI or the French program at St. Phillips in Richmond with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

I was active in requesting the Board review bringing EFI to MES as the decline in the school population was becoming a concern.  At the onset, a number of us from MES wanted the Board to include Richmond students in the review to see if there could be a better alternative than having Munster and Richmond EFI students being sent to Stittsville (Munster going to ALC and Richmond EFI students attending Westwind).  The Board advised any boundary changes would require a larger accommodation review which would take more time and with the declining MES numbers a study was needed immediately.

When looking at the projected numbers unfortunately it appears that keeping the school open with the current boundaries with an English only program or introducing EFI may not result in viable programs.  It is a very sad situation to see the community school close but there is a need to look at providing children the best education experience.

I would support either sending children to ALC (option 3) or splitting between ALC and RPS (option 4).  I think advantages can be found to both options but believe that both can provide a good learning environment for Munster children.

I would like to see a commitment from the Board to initiate a full accommodation review for the area in the near future.  From a boundary and community perspective I would like see if there could be an opportunity for Munster, Richmond, rural Goulbourn students to have all programs (English, EFI, MFI) offered at one school which they would all attend together in Richmond or Munster.  By providing EFI in Munster or Richmond this would also provide more spaces to accommodate growth in Stittsville.

–Jessica Breckenridge

I think we, as parents and as a community, need to be concerned any time there is the possibility of a school closure. Schools are a vital part of our communities, for both students and the larger population, and it’s important to ensure that other avenues are considered before looking at a closure.
None of the proposed options have a direct, significant impact on my family, but that won’t be the case for a lot of other families, so it’s important for everyone to submit comments to the school board before a decision is made.A. Lorne Cassidy Elementary School can accommodate more students. With the popularity of Early French Immersion, English programs at ALC, and across the board and province, have been shrinking; I believe an infusion of English stream students could be beneficial to the overall programming, atmosphere, and efficiency at A.L.C.

My children live in the A.L.C. catchment area, so they wouldn’t be affected functionally by the implementation of EFI at Munster, other than missing their friends. The impact will be felt more by EFI students from the Munster catchment area currently attending A. Lorne Cassidy, who would be losing the the school and student community they know.

The province doesn’t give unlimited funding for education, and school boards need to make the best possible use of the funds they do get. If the low enrolment projections put forward by the board are correct, I can understand why closing MES is on the radar. However, if the school does close, I would like to see the board keep the building so that it may be re-opened if the population in the Munster catchment area grows to a point where that becomes viable.

–Tanya Hein

We want to hear from parents who may be affected by these changes.Send us a note a or leave a comment below.


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