Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fulton Place - meeting re: possible closure

Last night was packed. It may have been the largest turn-out. In attendance: MLA and Leader of the Liberal party, David Swann.  MLA for Edmonton-Goldbar, Hugh MacDonald.  Councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

I heard:
- concern about the lack of playground at Hardisty
- concern about parking, safety for younger children and how they would "mix" with older kids
- Why isn't the current enrolment of Fulton (220) considered viable? Fulton has the most students of the three elementary schools in the area.
- Proposal: move Fulton Place school (teachers, students, daycare, everything) as a school unit into Hardisty. Keep it separate but under the same roof. Similar to arrangement for King Edward/Victoria and Nellie McClung/Oliver.
- concern about staff placement following closure. It is late in the year. Where will they end up?
- Great value and loyalty to the daycare (2 yr wait list, 200 kids on the list).  What will happen to it?
- One parent had a three-page document answering many questions about how the younger kids will be accomodated at Hardisty. He had done a walk-through with Principal Al Lowrie and had all his questions answered. His advice: Go meet Al. He's amazing and talking to the Principal put his mind at ease about the K-9 concept.
- Suggestion: why not designate Capilano to Fulton? Bring the 5/6 Logos back to Fulton and use the money proposed to convert Hardisty into a K-9 to instead tear down a wing or two at Hardisty to right-size it. 
- Suggestion: create a community concept for schools to help them through the generational changes that happen (and will happen) in all neighbourhoods.  Instead of closing schools, we need to think differently about them. Otherwise, this is a never-ending pattern of closures.
- Concern: will the renos at Hardisty be ready in time? Why not build it and then move the kids over. Allow the parents to see how their concerns are being addressed. Work with parents to create buy-in. Get the playground, drop off loop, lights on 106 Ave, etc. installed FIRST, so that it is a safe and inviting place for younger children.
- What about K-4 at Fulton and 5-9 at Hardisty?  That keeps the daycare and afterschool care in place at Fulton for the youngest students and allows more teacher collaboration for grade 5/6 teachers at Hardisty.
- Voices of the children- what do they want and have we asked them?
- Concern that retrofit would not happen. Examples of other promised renos not being done due to lack of funds.
- Fulton is a stable, cohesive community. Quality of life and social capital is of  great value. Fulton Place is situated in a quadrant of amenities and supports.  School brings so much joy to the community.
- Why are we doing this again?  This review process happened 4 years ago. Will we be back at these tables in another five years?
- K-9 works well. It has been successful in other schools and does have the benefit of creating a family feel and moderating the older kids' behaviour.
- Will EPSB work with the city to jointly plan for strong communities?
- What happens to the building if it is closed?
- Questions about which data we use-  is it the most up-to-date?
- The problem is Hardisty is too big.  Fill Hardisty with something other than children from Fulton. (Use space for other District or community needs).
- Suggestion: Explore other options, in particular services for seniors. If these were co-located at the school, Fulton Place could offer a continuum of care and learning from infancy to old age.
- Please take our comments seriously, trustees, and remember that you are elected officials.

The meeting went on for an hour past the original time because there were so many questions. Although, there was some frustration at points, people were generally very patient and respectful. In Board Chair Don Fleming's closing remarks,  he asked the audience to give the facilitators a round of applause for their hard work over the past three weeks. The crowd did. Don then pointed out that Lorne Parker has been taking all the questions at each meeting, not an easy job to do, and that he felt he also deserved a round of applause. The crowd graciously agreed.

It was a great display of kindness and humanity. It reminded me that even though it may feel at times like we are adversaries and on opposite sides of the fence, we are all merely human beings trying to do the very best we can.

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