Western School Division (WSD) gathered community members in the Minnewasta gymnasium Wednesday night to share the catchment and configuration for Discovery Trails School (DTS), currently under construction on Parkhill Drive, West of Mountain St North.
Superintendent Stephen Ross gave a thorough presentation outlining enrollment, present and future projections, noting WSD is the fastest growing school division in Manitoba right now at 12%. Background information, current catchment areas for schools in the division, challenges, an overview of DTS, considerations for the decision-making process and scenarios considered were all shared before the plan moving forward was revealed.
"It's quite a detailed process to go through. We realize we're changing things that are really comfortable and familiar with people. They love their schools and they're really familiar with where they are and we're coming into an unknown. And so, the more predictability we can give people, the better. And I think we're really pleased to find some higher end data tools to help us make better informed decisions and not very expensive but really, really useful in being able to do some real time modeling."
Ross explained the opening of the new school in September of 2024 will have an impact on all early and middle years schools in the division.
"The final decision, at this time, for Discovery Trails is that it will be K-8 dual-track and basically that Northwest corner of the city for the English program. So, if you live East of Mountain or South of Hwy. 3, then you're either in the Minnewasta catchment area, the Maple Leaf catchment area, or EMMS for middle school."
There will be no school of choice option for English students outside the catchment area to request a move, but those in the DTS area wishing to attend elsewhere will be considered. The first couple of years will be years of transition, according to Ross.
"For all of the kids, we're starting at K-6. The idea is the grade six kids that start at Discovery Trails will be the first-grade eights there and they'll just ascend up. When we had the K-8 program together, the French immersion program at Morden Elementary school, years ago, one of the things at that time was there wasn't so many classes, and there wasn't so many teachers, but there's a benefit of having all those kids together from the different grades where they could cross grade, they could work together, and they could do things. So, I think the French Immersion staff, in some ways, they love their schools they are currently in, are looking forward to the opportunities to do things with a wider range of kids and staff and things in a program like that as well."
Ross said the process had one focus in particular.
"It's all about kids, right? That's why we have to do it. And that's I think the concern and care that went into trying to go through those models that we walked through with people. I know lots of divisions wouldn't share all the modeling and thinking that they were doing, but we really tried to find what we thought was the best model for kids. At the end. Some people may say, oh, they didn't at all, they just picked whatever the easy one was. We absolutely did not. We really vetted every one of those models because we have to find the best option for all of our kids' long term in this community."
Go to the WSD website to find the full presentation, an easy-to-follow online brochure, and frequently asked questions and to ask your own questions.