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Amalgamation a hot issue
Parents want schools to preserve programs

Mon, Oct 21, 2002

RIVER EAST TRANSCONA

By Nick Martin

It wasn't so much an amalgamation in River East Transcona as River East's swallowing up Transcona when the NDP forced merger on the two unwilling partners.

It's the province's second largest division, with more than 19,000 students, but River East outnumbers Transcona by better than two-to-one in students, and has six of the nine school board seats, with a seventh in a ward that spans the former boundary. There are 24 candidates for nine seats, including two Transcona incumbents and six from River East.

River East's mill rate was almost two mills higher than Transcona's, but Transcona has lost the Springfield industrial park and the taxes from suburban homes in Oakbank, Anola and Dugald.

River East has been grappling for years with how to squeeze Grade 9 into its three crammed high schools -- presto, there are empty seats in Transcona schools.

Further complicating the mix is the NDP's backtracking that now allows Springfield kids continued full access to River East Transcona schools until June 30, 2005. "Schools that were kindergarten to Grade 8 may become K-5 or K-6," said candidate Ken Silk. "The hot issue seems to be amalgamation, making sure that the programs in place are preserved, that it's not just River East's mandate, that Transcona has to follow whatever River East wants."

Candidate Dwight Charles said parents worry that River East has dual French and English programs, Transcona one or the other. "They're worried about how the amalgamations of the school divisions are going to work, that the programs they like and are used to, are going to be gone.

"If they go back to a dual track, that could mean closing some schools and moving some students," Charles said. "I personally believe the single track system is a superior system."

There's substantial residential growth in Eastmere and Harbourview, but, "There's no school in the area," Charles pointed out.

Alice Neufeld-Klumper believes in having Grade 9s in high school rather than middle school, but, she said: "People are concerned about transportation if the grade levels change. If kids are going to be facing a half-hour bus ride in the morning, that's not productive," she said.

Standards tests are "incredibly stressful for very young children," said Neufeld-Klumper, a school librarian in Seven Oaks. "Assessment doesn't necessarily have to compute down to a written test." Khalid Mahmood would pour far more resources into tackling bullying; not enough is being done to protect aboriginal and immigrant children, he said.

"Children are not being challenged enough in school. They're not well-prepared to move from high school to university. I'm strong with standards tests, especially with grades 10, 11 and 12," Mahmood said.

Incumbent Peter Kotyk said parents want the board to be able to remove teachers who "can't cut it," and they want trustees to impose a moratorium on expensive field trips, possibly limited to one trip in senior high school. "Some parents are concerned these trips are driven by the teachers," he said.

A $100,000 home has been paying $1,327.81 in River East and $1,238.99 in Transcona. River East figures it will cost local taxpayers at least $2 million to bring teachers' salaries up to the higher Transcona teachers' level.

The Candidates

Ward 1 (2): Mary Andree (I), Colleen Carswell (I), Dwayne Charles, Cary Schneiderat, Ken Silk

Ward 2 (1): Val Hopkinson, Vicki Lazaruk (I), Taras Maluzynsky

Ward 3 (1): Bob Fraser (I), David Greskiw, Khalid Mahmood

Ward 4 (2): Jim Carrigan, Rod Giesbrecht (I), Starla Ginter, Alice Neufeld-Klumper, Wayne Ritcher (I)

Ward 5 (2): Charles Carrington, Lori Chrol, Roland Headley, Peter Kotyk (I), Brian Olynik

Ward 6 (1): Arthur Crozier, John O'Grodnik (I), Ron Yaworski

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca





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