Winnipeg parents express concerns with Manitoba's proposed school community councils
WINNIPEG -- Some Winnipeg parents had the opportunity to express some of their concerns with Manitoba's proposed school community councils, outlining some barriers facing parents.
During a virtual meeting with Winnipeg parents on Monday evening, Manitoba's Deputy Education Minister Dana Rudy, along with other education officials, listened to parents' concerns with Bill 64 and the overhaul of the education system.
The bill would merge Manitoba's school divisions into 15 regions and would eliminate elected school boards, opting instead for school community councils of parents for each school.
One member of a school community council from each of the 15 regions would be elected to the Provincial Advisory Council for Education which would advise the Minister of Education.
It is a proposed change that one parent feared could allow parents' concerns to go unheard.
"This individual is going to speak for my school – my neighbourhood, but they are also going to speak for Lindenwoods, they are also going to speak for the North End," they said. "Somehow this individual is going to be able to stay in tune with everything going on in this hugeness that is Winnipeg."
The idea is also raising some concerns with some parents who told the education officials that many parents are facing barriers when it comes to becoming more involved with the education system.
One parent said a concern they have with proposed school community councils is the time commitment required from parents.
"My concern is that certain demographics are going to be left unrepresented just because of their family situation – maybe both parents work full-time," they said.
"I'm concerned that the representation of even just certain communities are going to go unheard."
One parent who said they immigrated to Canada said they had a very difficult time navigating Canada's school system as a parent.
"I do work full-time. I do have a very tight schedule, but I am very much willing to participate. I just don't know what that is supposed to look like," they said.
"We don't engage because we don't have the information – we don’t know how."
Another parent said the province's Bill 64 does not address poverty, and small class sizes – which they said both represent barriers to parents.
Parents questioned the inclusivity of school community councils – asking how the province will address language barriers for parents, and make sure those leading the councils will come from diverse backgrounds.
"I think the buck probably starts from the provincial government," one parent said. "To really encourage with the individual schools, so that we start seeing real diversity, and real representation, and real inclusion."
Rudy told the parents their comments will be used to structure these school community councils.
"This isn't the end. This the beginning of an 18-month journey around what it will take to build parental engagement and participation from multiple groups," Rudy told parents.
Rudy said the province will be holding another telephone town hall on Tuesday, along with more regional meetings in the future.
Manitobans can register for the telephone town hall by visiting EngageMB.ca. The deadline to register for the town hall is 11 a.m. on June 15.
Manitobans can also submit questions to the province by email.