News / Halifax

Join Cole Harbour and Auburn Drive high schools? Public discuss under-capacity Dartmouth schools in review

A large crowd gave their feedback Thursday night into what they'd like to see for their family of schools.

Parent Laquisha Wolfe, standing, speaks to the crowd at Cole Harbour Place Thursday night about possibly joining both high schools.

Haley Ryan/Metro

Parent Laquisha Wolfe, standing, speaks to the crowd at Cole Harbour Place Thursday night about possibly joining both high schools.

The clapping of more than 300 people echoed around the packed room at the idea of joining Cole Harbour High and Auburn Drive High together to not “limit” students, and give them more options.

Parents, community members, politicians, school board members and more came together Thursday night at Cole Harbour Place for the first of three public meetings in the review process into the Cole Harbour/Auburn family, which includes 17 schools.

Laquisha Wolfe said while the two high schools have always had a rivalry, joining into one campus that would see kids walk between the existing buildings “would help break down some of those barriers.”

Since “traditionally Auburn High School is more academic-focused whereas Cole Harbour High is more trades-focused” when it comes to programming, Wolfe said it makes sense to have both available to students while bringing more diversity to the student population.

“We’re kind of forcing kids to try to pick their career path in junior high school to determine what school they’re going to go in,” Wolfe said to the crowd.

“It would keep us from having to limit our children to what the possibilities are. It opens more doors for them,” she added afterwards.

The vast majority of the schools are under capacity while one is above, facilitators and the School Options Committee (SOC) told the group. The future Eastern Passage high school will compound the issue by drawing away feeder schools from Cole Harbour High, with projected capacity there only being 35 per cent in 2018.

While brainstorming ideas, some suggested introducing more French immersion into schools that get condensed since French schools are quite full, and keeping walkability.

Many schools are also close to one another and have overlapping boundaries, while the catchment areas follow historically diverse communities, facilitator Robert Wright told the crowd.

“What is our hope for that diversity, and what are we going to need to support a healthy and diverse and vibrant school community in the future?” he said.

The SOC will bring back a few options for feedback on Feb.1 at Cole Harbour Place.

Review should be delayed until after work-to-rule: parent

Some parents say it’s “only right” the school review process be delayed until work-to-rule ends, but a review co-chair says the strike action doesn’t mean people won’t be informed.

Karen Hicks, a parent and School Advisory Council (SAC) member, said Thursday the review shouldn’t be happening since SACs can’t meet under work-to-rule and get updates from their representative on the School Options Committee (SOC) who are steering the process.

“We have no idea what’s going on,” Hicks said.

“It’s only right that it be delayed … Who are they answering to? If your SOC member gets something wrong, there’s no way to correct them.”

However, co-chair of the SOC Corrie Anderson said while the strike action limits their communication, they can still talk to principals and SAC parents independently.

Anderson also said while they share what’s happening on the SOC with their parents and teachers, the “SAC agenda is not specifically about SOC work.”

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