Sask. Rivers stands by Debden French Immersion transportation decision

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division is standing behind its decision to not provide busing for a family seeking French immersion schooling outside their transportation area.

Marla Schattle and her family live between Debden and Canwood. Their house lies two kilometers outside the school division’s boundary lines for busing to Ecole Debden School. Since 2021, the family has had to transport their two children to school themselves.

Education Director Robert Bratvold said the board reject a request to be grandfathered in to the Debden School last spring and again in the fall, and they’re standing by that decision. Instead, they’ve

“It’s not without understanding and knowing that it is a challenging piece,” Bratvold said. “(We are) doing the things that we can in our regulations and procedures to try and support. The safe haven is an option. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it is something we try to make available for those who can use that option.”

Schattle has a child in Kindergarten and one in preschool. The three options offered by the division are to transport them, go to Canwood School, which doesn’t offer French Immersion, or the Safe Haven choice, which involves moving the children to an approved home within the boundary.

She had an appeal to the board of education denied in September 2021 after changes were made in the French Immersion transportation service area last year to align with provincial regulations.

Bratvold described the situation as challenging but said they’ve been consistent across the division.

“We have got people who live just on the other side of an attendance boundary and they have a strong preference for this school or that school,” he said. “It does make it challenging.”

The most recent letter was on the agenda for the May 9 board meeting. The matter was dealt with in a closed session and was denied again with the note that they would not review it again.

“We also believe in the educational program in all of our schools,” Bratvold said. “I know that Canwood doesn’t have French Immersion that this family is seeking, but I also know if French Immersion is one of those things (they want) it certainly is available. It’s just the transportation that isn’t available to them.”

Bratvold said in September when the appeal was denied that even before the changes, the division had been operating above and beyond the regulations for some time. The need for clarification is what brought the appeals before the board.

After approving one appeal in August for a family that already had children attending school in Debden, Bratvold said they expected to see more appeals from the area. He said they tried to find their way to a reasonable decision.

Two families made two separate requests and followed the process, but had their requests denied. Afterward, they submitted letters of appeal to the board. Both letters were discussed separately at the meeting in September.

The board looked at two motions during the meeting—one for each family. The first allowed one family with children already in school to complete school at Ecole Debden School. The second motion denied the appeal of the family.

As far as making French Immersion available at Canwood School, Bratvold said that there have not been any conversations around it in his time and he doesn’t expect that to become an option.

Transportation boundaries are discussed each year at the board’s organizational meeting.

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