A petition signed by 93 West Kelowna parents is calling for a new K-12 inclusive school to be built on what is now the École George Pringle Elementary site.
The petition, which has grown to more than 100 signatures online since the board meeting, is in response to the Central Okanagan Board of Education determining the Pringle site is the only one able to meet the protocols to support a new Westside secondary school after reviewing all other site options.
But speaking on behalf of the petition signatories, Unjali Malhotra told trustees at the board of education meeting Wednesday (June 23) there are concerns on the issues of equity, access and program sustainability, in particular relating to French Immersion, if the students are relocated at different schools.
Malhotra said those concerns emerged from discussions held among parents over the last few weeks.
Their belief is all children in West Kelowna should have the opportunity to access French Immersion without undue burden, and that French Immersion deserves the opportunity to be sustained without undue strain.
Malhotra said that in uprooting the existing elementary, those target objectives will not be met.
“We put forward this proposal not only to combat these issues but also in considering that surrounding schools are bursting at the seams,” Malhotra said.
She also noted that French Immersion is already showing indications of a decline in the recent aftermath of the board of education’s new secondary school site announcement.
She suggested the K-12 dual track school concept is one that helps address enrolment issues facing students of all ages and will allow French Immersion to thrive and grow.
“The reason a lot of parents support the dual track system is from what we have built at our school, a respect of culture, curiosity and courage with French, English and Indigenous programs and students in each learning off each other,” Malhotra said.
“Our school has grown into a microcosm of success and we want to emulate that going forward. I would hate to see otherwise.”
Moyra Baxter, board of education chair, said the K-12 proposal would be considered with all other options introduced during a Westside school consultation process with parents beginning in September.
The consultation initiative is in part to deal with the fallout of the Pringle site decision and how best to deal with the impact on students and surrounding schools.
“Changes like these are always very difficult…every time you change a (catchment) boundary or have to move students, it is difficult for families and we acknowledge that as a board,” Baxter said.
West Kelowna trustee Chantelle Desrosiers cautioned the school board is not the final decision-maker on a K-12 school for the Pringle site, saying the provincial treasury board signs off on any capital project proposal submitted by the ministry of education.