Five L.V. Rogers students spent part of their week on a waitlist rather than in classrooms and though the kids have all received spots now their parents are furious with how the situation has been handled.
“I’ve been losing a lot of sleep over this,” said SD8 parent Suzie Wenselaers, whose son is going into Grade 9. “My son suffers from anxiety, and we’ve been in the process of getting ready for this big transition for a year now.”
So when she learned that her son was on a waitlist because she was late submitting a transfer form in April, she couldn’t believe it. Nobody had informed her of the situation over the summer.
“I called there because I was curious why his timetable hadn’t showed up,” Wenselaers said. “The secretary couldn’t find him in the system, and then she told me he was on a waitlist.”
That’s when she sought out Principal Tamara Malloff, telling her “I’m sorry, but this isn’t acceptable to me.”
“I was told as a DESK [Distance Education School of the Kootenays] student he didn’t have to fill out a transfer form, but then I found out after the fact he does. It was through no fault of my own that I missed that deadline, and I have all the email correspondence to prove it.”
Wenselaers is only one of the parents speaking out about the waitlist situation following an impassioned Facebook post written by fellow Nelson parent Camara Cassin earlier this week. And even though Wenselaers missed the transfer deadline, she figures the district had plenty of time to sort things out.
She provided the Star with her email correspondence with Jeff Jones, in which he outlined the details of Policy 461.
“I am going to make the assumption that you didn’t attempt to register… until after March 31,” he wrote. “At this time of year schools are working with a preliminary organization as determined by those who were registered by March 31.”
This means the school is going to look at shuffling around the timetable and reorganizing, but the initial plan was for the five waitlisted students to remain in limbo until Friday, or possibly until September 30, as per SD8 Policy 461.
“An important part of this story is we had 163 transfer requests on time in the district, and all of them were approved by the first week of April. Since then we’ve had 142 late requests, and all will be considered by this week,” Jones told the Star.
And though these five students weren’t included in the first week, he feels it was a success. For one thing, their registration software MyEdBC is working properly after causing problems at the beginning of last year.
“Six hundred and fifty students had a wonderful start-up,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how our district implements the new curriculum, and I’m very interested in the new graduation requirements, which will be a big part of this year.”
But it’s hard to see the silver lining for Wenselaers.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s not good enough. In my email to the superintendent I said I want this rectified ASAP. I want my son in school, I want him to have a locker and classes. I need him to get in with his peers so he feels like part of the school.”
She’s been sending her son to school each morning anyways, where he hangs out in Room 205.
“That’s the room where kids with difficulties go. They have great support there, and I wanted him to be there for a little bit. He took the bus to school with his friend, and he’s doing his best, but he’s bummed out right now. He’s been dealing with anxiety.”
DPAC (District Parent Advisory Council) chair Sheri Walsh wrote on Facebook she understands why the students were waitlisted, but thinks the situation is unfortunate.
“Registered students sometimes do not show up and so space opens up in what previously looked like full classes. Right or wrong, that is the procedure and the rationale,” said Walsh.
Wenselaers is concerned about the toll this is taking on her son in the mean time.
“I told Jeff Jones and Tamara Malloff I need their help with this. I understand they have great support once they get there, but the support we need now is to get him into classes so he doesn’t back-slide.”
Both Cassin and Wenselaers are unhappy with the communication they’ve been receiving. Local trustee Curtis Bendig encouraged them to contact him.
“This is a very challenging and frustrating situation. Parents of students, please know that if you are having difficulties getting the information you need, you can contact me and I can help connect you with the appropriate resources,” he wrote.
On Wednesday afternoon Jones informed Wenselaers that space has been made for her son, and he told the Star the district is looking at adding a new definition for the term “waitlist” to the website to “spell out the priority order for admission that is outlined in our policy rather than directing people to the policy.”
“Scripts for school staff may be helpful. Another possible solution is to centralize registration – however that may be difficult to staff given the diverse geography of the district,” he wrote.
“The administration of the school may wish to consider a timetable free start to the year – but that would be a school-based decision.”
He acknowledged “we can certainly improve our messaging to parents”.
Cassin shared her feelings in another post Wednesday afternoon. She’s created a Facebook group called the BC Education Crisis that aims to connect parents with educational concerns.
“I’m feeling burnt out and tired now. At least I’ve now heard through the media that (my daughter) will be able to go to LVR high school. Although no one from the school or board has told me that. I hope it’s true.”
By Thursday the waitlisted kids were back in school, and a meeting with concerned parties was scheduled at L.V. Rogers for 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.