A wait-and-see approach is being taken by several Nelson schools after it was announced Grade 9 students would move from L.V. Rogers to Trafalgar Middle School in September 2021.
Nelson Christian Community School, Nelson Waldorf School and St. Joseph School each operate outside School District 8, while École des Sentiers Alpins is part of the francophone School District 93.
None of the schools offer Grade 9 at their facilities, which means students would have to transfer to Trafalgar for one year before moving onto Nelson’s only high school.
SD8’s reconfiguration plan, which was approved by its board of trustees in early December as a way of addressing overcrowding at LVR, has been publicly criticized for a number of issues including the need for extensive renovations at the 91-year-old Trafalgar building.
Kevin Bernhardt, the superintendent of Nelson Christian School as well as the CHEK ABC home education program, said results from a survey showed parents are favourable to Grade 9 being offered at the school’s Tenth Street location.
Currently, the school offers junior kindergarten to Grade 8 classes with an option for Grade 9 home schooling or cross-enrolment at LVR.
Bernhardt said Nelson Christian’s building has room to expand to a Grade 8-9 class, and he believes a decision will be made by the end of the school year.
“For us it’s not so much just adding on Grade 9,” said Bernhardt. “What we want to do is add a program that is best geared for Grade 9 students, because we recognize that junior high [students] want something a little different from a typical elementary style program. So it’s really shifting and changing that junior high program.”
Possible expansion plans are less clear at the three other schools.
St. Joseph School principal Marlene Suter said it is too early to comment on what might happen, although she added parents have previously expressed a desire for a Grade 9 option.
“Definitely there’s lots of feelings about it and we are looking at the whole picture,” she said.
Nelson Waldorf School currently offers preschool to Grade 8. Education director Phil Fertey said because students enter Waldorf’s grades one year older than School District 8 students, some students have previously skipped Grade 9 and moved directly to Grade 10 at LVR.
A Grade 9 outdoor program previously existed over a decade ago at Waldorf, but Fertey said that program has mostly been integrated into the school’s existing classes.
“Our focus really is not to have any knee jerk response to this,” he said. “It’s to focus on better communicating what it is we do in terms of our environmental stewardship, outdoor programs, things that are part of our Waldorf education, which up to now we have not spoken much about.”
Sylvie Mazerolle is the principal of the kindergarten to Grade 8 École des Sentiers Alpins as well as the École Secondaire de Nelson Grade 9 to 12 program, which allows its students to partially enrol in public francophone education while also attending LVR.
In a statement, Mazerolle said she is concerned the move to Trafalgar might change the current arrangement.
“Equity is at the heart of our shared mandate to provide quality public education to Nelson students,” said Mazerolle. “It is my hope that we can continue to collaborate across districts to ensure the rights of all students are respected, including those of learners who are part of Nelson’s minority francophone cultural and linguistic community.”