By John DeCoste
All students graduating from Berwick School should be able to attend the same high school as their friends and classmates, says a Berwick-area parent.
Claire Morse made a presentation to the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board meeting Dec. 5 asking for a review and changes to the West Kings and Central Kings catchment boundaries in the Berwick area.
Morse explained that for years, students living in the Berwick area have had the choice of whether to attend high school at West Kings or Central Kings.
Buses serving both schools currently operate within the town, even though Berwick “is entirely in the West Kings catchment area.” This, she suggested, “is an anomaly the board wants to phase out.”
At a meeting in November 2011, the board asked for public input into the enforcement of the West Kings and Central Kings catchment areas.
They received little feedback, and chose to enforce the catchments as they currently stand. Morse noted, “it was only after much research was done that the consequence of this motion was realized.”
When she applied the motion to actual students living in the Berwick area, she realized enforcing the current catchments “would have the unintended result of sending approximately one child per year to a high school different to that of their friends and classmates.”
Using an interactive map, Morse showed how one or two students per year living in a small area near Berwick would have to attend Central Kings, while the remainder of their classmates moved on to West Kings.
Splitting the Berwick junior high class, she suggested, “is an anomaly. Berwick School is the only school in the AVRSB which splits its class when it moves on to high school, with some students going to one school and some to another.”
She said the results of an approximately 12-year-old board decision are finally being revealed. Even though the catchment areas were created at the same time, “this is, I believe, the first time both are being enforced at the same time.”
Morse pointed out the benefits of keeping groups of students from an area together as they move through the school system, thus “meeting both their academic and social needs.”
“Parents of children in Grade 8 and 9 are all too familiar with the fact that friendships and peer acceptance are especially important at this critical point in a child’s emotional development,” she said.
Most students in Kings County “simply hop on a bus and go to school with their friends.” For students in the area in question, though, “they are told to choose between friends and transportation.
“If they go to Central Kings, they get transportation, but none of their Berwick friends. If their request for transfer to West Kings is granted, they get friends, but no transportation.”
Morse said she commend the board for attempting to resolve the issue of children having a choice of high schools, and believe their first step of removing the choice was a good one.
However, she hopes they will take the necessary second step of extending the West Kings catchment to include all of the area in question, so students in that area can also go to West Kings.
Later in the meeting, the board passed a motion from its Planning and Priorities Committee that a review be done of the catchment boundaries in the Berwick area. Superintendent of schools Margo Tait confirmed this review would likely take place early in 2013.
In general, board members and staff were impressed with Morse’s presentation, terming it “very thorough, very clear and very helpful.”