Minutes of Our April Meeting

Prince Street

April 20, 2017

Heather called the meeting to order and chaired. Our co-chairs were unable to attend (Ramona) or had to arrive late due to other commitments (Kristy). There were 14 people including 1 translator in attendance.

PRINCIPAL’S REPORT

Erin gave a verbal report.

Staffing Changes: Michelle Rioux’s last day is tomorrow. She was doing a maternity leave for Amy MacKinnon, who will return next week. New EA Jasmine Gehry to support one student. Lori MacDonald who was here as an itinerant will finish next week. Barry O’Brien, our youth worker who has been filling in for Kenny Stanley, is a wonderful fit with the school.

Easter Seals: The ambassador visited yesterday, Cameron. This year was a record year for Prince Street fundraising, over $300, organized by our Power Plus group, one of the groups formed at the start of school to build skills. They did a “pupcake” fundraiser and a raffle for Easter Seals. The top fundraising class (Ms. Kiley’s 5/6 class) played a basketball game against the staff. The staff won! And a pizza party will be the prize for the class and for the staff.

Environmentathon: This annual fundraiser is coming up. The students seek sponsorship to clean up the neighbourhood. Each year, we have raised more than $8,000, and it is a great community event. There are prizes galore. The money stays within the school for things needed in the school — for classroom needs or in the instructional category or experience-for-kids category.

Afterschool Program: Youth Worker Barry is leading an afterschool program for grades 4, 5, 6. It is sports-based, rotating different sports that are important in different countries and why. Chris Sallie is going to do another cooking class, this time for Grade 4s. It will be a six-week program and is funded by a grant.

Recent PD Day: Prince Street had an in-house PD with the school goals team, focused on the workshop model in reading, writing, and math, with additional time in our literacy room (staff-only literacy resource room) looking at new resources. We had $5,000 from the Dept of Education for new resources that we had to decide how to use and distribute to use really well throughout the school.

School Supplies: The memo about next year’s school supplies should have gone home today to K-3 students. If your child will be in K-3, you will pay a $40 fee for supplies. If your child is in Grade 4, 5, or 6 you will receive a list of items to purchase. This will be sent home in the end-of-year report card.

French Week: We are one of the only schools left that celebrates French Week. There are lots of French-language activities, and a highlight is croissants for students.

Trinity Church Pancake Breakfast: This was again a big success. Rev. Greg Davies from Trinity dropped off a cheque for over $1,500 for our breakfast program.

Island Storm: Recently, the Principal and Vice-Principal brought Grade 6 students to a Storm game as a group activity. They had a ball.

Art Blitz: The next art blitz (an afternoon spent on art in all classes throughout the school) will take place in a few weeks.

Administrative Professionals Day: April 26, next Wednesday, is admin professional day. Kristy will take care of this on behalf of Home and School.

Incoming Kindergarten Dates: EYE Assessments - for incoming kindergarten students are coming up May 3. The Welcome to Kindergarten event will be May 11. Kindergarten orientation half-day at the school will be May 26. The go-for-a-ride-in-the-schoolbus opportunity will be at the end of kindergarten half-day orientation.

Assessments: Grade 3 and 6 math and literacy assessments will be coming up soon as well, and parents of students in these grades will hear more about them. Parents will get results from these assessment in September. There will be a program assessment for Grade 6 core French this year. This will look like a test and is an assessment — but it is not an assessment of the students, but rather of the program. This program assessment is new this year.

EFFECTS OF SCHOOL CHANGES AT PRINCE STREET

Rezoning decisions by government and Public Schools Branch will have an impact at Prince Street, but a much smaller impact than many of other schools — and maybe less impact than earlier recommendations.

There are three ways we will be affected initially:

1) Students leaving here in Grade 6 will not automatically go to Birchwood anymore. About 2/3 will be zoned for Birchwood and about 1/3 will be zoned for Stonepark. Where students will go is based on where they live. Intermediate-school zones have changed. Students who will be graduating from Prince Street this year have already started to do visits to the junior high schools they will be attending.

2) Although we won’t see it or feel it, any student who currently lives in the Prince Street zone and wants to go to French Immersion will now go to West Kent, rather than Spring Park. When they complete Grade 6, French immersion students from the Prince Street zone will go from West Kent to rejoin their neighbourhood peers from Prince Street at Birchwood (rather than going on to Queen Charlotte).

3) The most significant way we will be affected, because we are part of the schools affected by rezoning, is that all school zones are reset. This means that if you are attending school out of zone, you have to go back to the school you are zoned for. There are 51 kids attending Prince Street who will next year go to the schools they are zoned for and leave Prince Street. Even if granted an out of zone transfer previously, they will start from scratch at the school they are zoned for. This applies to all affected schools.

We will also recapture students who are attending other schools currently but who are zoned for Prince Street School. It’s a similar number, plus or minus ten, including students who started Spring Park for French Immersion but at some point transferred to the English-language program. (About a half-dozen students are in that position.)

Right now, principals of affected schools have been given a file of addresses and students affected. Many addresses we had on file were not up to date. The biggest challenge right now is getting address up to date. Erin has spent a lot of time talking to people, trying to get addresses as up to date as possible, to avoid as much emotional turmoil as possible. The database system is now as updated as we can get it to this point.

Erin is part of a transition team with the Public Schools Branch planning how to make this all work. On Tuesday of next week, all children in all affected schools will receive a letter that will say their child’s name and their address, and a listing of the school your child is properly zoned for. The second page will be a form to return with either a confirmation or correction of address. The Public Schools Branch will need all of these form filled out and returned ASAP. Erin will contact Newcomers to help newcomer families.

Once Prince Street receives any changes back, they will make updates in our system and let some people know what zone they are meant to be in.

In some cases, people may have to provide proof of address. There are many dual-home families that provide particular cases.

In the long run, the Public Schools Branch wants students to go where they are meant to go, to avoid the mess of overfilled and underfilled schools that resulted in the current turmoil.

There will be an out of zone transfer process. There is an application process to apply to go to an out of zone school. The process to this point has been an application to and decision by the PSB in consultation with the Principal; this process will be further tightened. There will be very little leeway. 

From now on, in order to be considered for a transfer, there will very strict criteria. “Student Transfer Policy.” The new policy and procedure is detailed here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/edu/psb/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/401.1_student_transfer_request.pdf.

For a request to be accepted, there will need to exceptional circumstance around the request. Most requests will need to fulfill the following criteriaL
- The request has to be supported by a PSB consultant for academic, social, health, safety or other exceptional reasons.
- There has to be space at the school and in the class the student would be transferring to.
- The receiving school has to have the capacity to meet the needs of a transferring student.
- The parent(s) must provide transportation to the receiving school.

There may also be exceptions to address capacity issues (for families requesting a transfer from an overcapacity school). This will be a consideration.

There are no application deadlines for the out of zone transfers.

Erin said the anxiety some families are feeling is the same anxiety that the schools are feeling and the same anxiety that the PSB is feeling. Everyone is trying to do their best in a difficult situation. Students can get a really good education and have a good experience at any school. Erin said this school will provide the best possible transition we can provide — and receiving schools will do the same in reverse for us. Erin is trying to call every affected family by phone before they get the letter from the PSB next week.

The go-to jump for most families Erin has talked to is “I’m going to apply for an out of zone transfer,” and anyone is welcome to do this, but families should know that very few will be granted.

Erin asked Home and School members for their support to help calm anxieties and to share the message that this process will work out okay.

Erin noted there are some parent reps on transition team with principals, from the most-affected schools (Spring Park and West Kent).

Prince Street will be welcoming between 50 and 70 students to our school next fall. Between now and then, we’d like to have an open house, potentially an information night, and Home and School can help. The administration would love to have ideas and help and home and school membership at those events to provide a welcome. One idea would be to distribute some free tickets to Spring Fling to incoming students, for example. It would be really great to have a home and school rep to help with planning. There were volunteers immediately. Erin will reach out for parent help after meeting some immediate deadlines.

RESPONSE TO GUARDIAN ARTICLES

A recent special issue of The Guardian focused on poverty, and it dedicated two articles to Prince Street School, with extensive quotations from interviews with Erin and Aletha Coady.

The response from the community has been overwhelming: emails, letters, phone calls, drop-ins. There have been donations of all kinds, including fresh rolls from the community of Buddhist monks who have a mission to help provide good food to Island communities. The monks’ donation may be repeated or become a regular donation.

Heather noted that she saw a lot of response to the article, and that it was important to her to reach out to her networks with the message that poverty does not only exist at Prince Street school. It is Island-wide, and if you want to help, please talk to your community’s school to find out what their needs are. Erin agreed, it’s a systemic issue, not just a Prince Street issue.

At the same time, everyone also agreed that while the need is everywhere, Prince Street is very willing to accept people’s offerings, when they are effective. One parent said the need may be everywhere — but seeing it and reading the article really hit home. Family members from away wanted to to send money or know ways they could help. Those who are connected to Prince Street families and students who want to provide help — we should definitely capitalize on this.

There was a question whether donations to the school can be tagged to specific line items. Yes, they can be (including the pot of money for the breakfast program and including the pot of money for purchasing lunch for students). Trinity also provides stacks of gift cards for grocery stores for purchases for the breakfast program or for the snack cupboard. Sometimes the school uses money to buy fruit or vegetables for a whole class. 

Does the school provided lunches when needed? The school retains a pot of money for lunches. It is from the same put our hot lunch program goes through. There are a number of regular donors. Those students the school identifies as needing a hot lunch receive a code to put at the bottom of their lunch order form so no money has to go in and the children will receive a hot lunch order for free. Staff also 
make lunches on a daily basis for students who don’t have a lunch on a given day. Staff members make them a jam sandwich, toast, or whatever is available. That comes out of the breakfast program fund. After the newspaper article, there were offers of, for example, ten bagged lunches a day. Unfortunately, this is not a practical donation to accept and administer. It is unpredictable how many lunches will be needed on a given day. Cash or grocery store gift cards are a really usable, efficient way to contribute.

There were offers after the article to sponsor a family. This poses its own challenges with confidentiality. Sometimes it’s possible to make a match and for it to work really well. But it’s not easy.

Donations of clothes, boots, and sneakers are also very efficient and very welcome. Clothing store/general store gift cards are also welcome for specific purchases to meet needs.

The key is finding ways to use people’s support in an effective, efficient way. Donations are not effective when they make more work for staff.

A parent asked if we do Friday backpacks? Friday backpacks are filled with food for the children for the weekend - a pasta, some fresh veggies, depending on the family, sometimes frozen meat. Trinity Church might be able to help with that. There’s a model at the Summerside Boys and Girls Club.

A model from another school is to accept coat and boot donations in the spring and then in the next season have a low-cost coat and boot sale ($3 per item), with proceeds into the breakfast program. We are essentially doing a program like this now, but with no cost rather than low cost.

There had been discussion of offers of bulk fresh veggies from the monks or others at harvest time. If a donation like this is ever offered, Robin committed to help organize veggie distribution so that we could accept the donation.

PROVINCIAL HOME AND SCHOOL FEDERATION AGM

On April 8th, four of us from Prince Street went to PEI Home and School Federation AGM. Motions that were passed were mostly in support of the provincial initiative to establish a free hot lunch program in all schools. Recently, government said it will start pilot projects in the fall at three schools, but Prince Street will need to explore if we could have a pilot project with the infrastructure we have here. They are still in the process of picking the schools for the pilot. Ramona is looking into whether or not we would meet the criteria. If we meet criteria, Ramona will put our school in for consideration.

Surprisingly, there was no discussion about rezoning as part of the AGM.

FAMILY FUN NIGHT

We raised $178 on a bright, nice evening. In the fall, it’s dark when we hold family fun night, which probably boosts participation. What was wonderful in April was seeing families there doing things together. it probably would be more well attended in February than April.

FINANCIAL UPDATE

After cheques, we will have $420 in bank and cash on hand for little items as they come up, including rolled coins, which we will keep on hand for Spring Fling. Heather usually floats between $500 and $1,000 for expenses in advance of Spring Fling. These are recouped during the event.

Home and School had committed to support a Bricks4Kids program with one of the grades this week. The Architects’ Association is helping support Bricks 4 Kids programming that fits with curriculum; Heather is approaching the engineering association to pitch a similar contribution.

SPRING FLING
June 2nd is the date selected for Spring Fling.

We are looking for a better price on inflatables. We have a firm that may possibly sponsor the inflatables!

Heather is taking care of the barbecue. Sobeys loans us the barbecue. We’ll have to make sure we have propane tanks.

Erin will help with trucking and deliveries.

There will be a dunk tank!

Other details and decisions were in the March minutes, which Jane will post (without names attached, though she has notes about possible volunteers).

OTHER BUSINESS
There was no other business. Heather adjourned the meeting with thanks.

NEXT MEETING
May 18th - see you there!