New West board nixes second EFI class at Spencer

A proposal by New Westminster school district staff to add a second kindergarten early French immersion class (EFI) to Herbert Spencer elementary died without the board of education even voting on it.

After registration closed, 22 children were left on a wait list for EFI at Spencer. District staff determined there was enough room at the school for a second class. But a online petition was started by area parents that collected 144 signatures opposing the idea because of space limitations at the school.

Many of them showed up at Tuesday's board meeting to voice their opposition. However, when trustee Jim Janzen moved the staff recommendation none of the other trustees seconded it which meant the proposal was killed right there.

Board chair Michael Ewen said he would have seconded the motion but couldn't in his position. He wanted the staff recommendation to go through because its defeat means the district must create another kindergarten class.

Provincial legislation requires districts to have an average of 19 or less in their kindergarten classes. The proposed one for Spencer would have accomplished this.

"Despite what happened we still have to find another class because legally we're violating the law," said Ewen on Wednesday.

In light of those issues and other capacity problems developing in the district, trustee Lisa Graham said she intends to introduce a motion at the June 7 meeting calling for a comprehensive assessment of each school and its catchment area. She is also proposing, based on the collected information, the district discuss education priorities and values with the community.

• The board also referred back to staff for more information a proposal by superintendent John Woudzia to hire a noon-hour supervisor for a pilot project in order to extend lunch hour.

District Parent Advisory Council vice-president MaryAnn Mortensen recently told the board most schools in the district don't allow enough time for children at lunch, only providing 15 minutes to wash their hands, eat and clean up.

In his report to the board Tuesday, Woudzia said an extension of five to 10 minutes would require more supervision so he proposed up to 11 noon hour supervisors be hired to help facilitate the move. Since that would cost $46,200, Woudzia's report was amended to propose one be hired for 2011-12 at Herbert Spencer at a cost of $4,200 with the results being analyzed and presented to the board March 27, 2012.

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