Future Challenges Await Lady Evelyn

By Meredith Newberry

Source: Ottawa-Carleton Education Network

Source: Ottawa-Carleton Education Network

Main Street is no stranger to change and evolution. Nor is a school nestled among the backhoes and excavators now digging up Old Ottawa East’s largest thoroughfare.

Lady Evelyn Alternative School is facing potentially major changes in the 2016-17 school year. At the top of the list is declining enrolment.

The Mainstreeter looked at Lady Evelyn student numbers over the past three years. They showed a significant drop.

The school has a capacity of 361 students. Last October, there were 210 enrolled, 48 fewer than in 2012 and 77 fewer than 2013, when Lady Evelyn saw a jump in its population.

The decline is in contrast to student numbers at other area schools.

Another change taking place at Lady Evelyn concerns the curriculum.

In September, the school, which holds classes only in English for students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Six, will begin to offer kindergarten students half-day French instruction.

The move is part of a change across the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. It isn’t news to parents of young children in Ottawa, but to a school that has offered an English curriculum with only 40 minutes of French a day, boosting the amount of French could be significant.

The OCDSB did not reply to a request for comment about Lady Evelyn from the Mainstreeter.

In contrast to Lady Evelyn’s declining numbers, nearby Elgin Street Public School was so crowded that the OCDSB decided to move Elgin’s English program to Centennial Public School on Gloucester Street in Centretown. The entire Elgin Street facility except for one grade will be committed to French immersion programs.

Elgin Street, with a capacity of 254 students, was oversubscribed this past academic year. The school has 329 students, 76 more than in 2012.

Viscount Alexander Public School on Mann Avenue in Sandy Hill has seen a slight increase in its student body. Like Elgin Street, Viscount Alexander offers both English and Early French Immersion options.

Viscount Alexander has a 188-student capacity. The school had 181 students in 2015-16, 19 more than in 2012.

Lady Evelyn parents appear positive about the future of their school and like the coming changes.

Amy Campbell McGee, an Old Ottawa East parent of three, sends one child to Lady Evelyn and another to the Early French Immersion program at Elgin Street.

“Our experience at Lady Evelyn is that the teachers have been incredibly responsive to the needs of our kids, both as learners and in terms of embracing who they are and providing a safe environment,” Campbell McGee said. “We only wish that there was French immersion available at the school. We would never have sent our youngest elsewhere otherwise.”

Ananda Kelly, a mother of one child that attended Lady Evelyn from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Six and another going into Grade One in September, said she hopes enrolment increases and parents see the value an alternative school curriculum provides.

“There is no single way or pace of learning that universally works for everyone,” Kelly said, “and the teachers at Lady Evelyn really get that. The teaching and even the evaluations are innovative, with projects that are really outside the box compared to the mainstream school model.”

Programs in alternative schools are based on student-centered learning. The schools still meet Ministry of Education standards but with more flexibility to concentrate in areas of students’ own interests and aptitudes. Alternative schools focus on multiple types of assessments and evaluations rather than traditional tests and grades.

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Filed in: Education, Front Page

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