New Westminster school board reviewing schools' May Day role

New Westminster’s 145-year-old May Day celebrations could see changes by the spring of 2017, depending on the findings of a new school board task force.

At a meeting on Nov. 24, trustees unanimously agreed to create a task force to review the school district’s May Day involvement, which has traditionally included activities like teaching students folk dances and helping choose the annual May Queen and Royal Knights.

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A rationale for the committee prepared by trustee Michael Ewen stated the group should focus particularly on “the educational role of May Day, its place in the school system and the real cost of May Day to the school district.”

Qayqayt Elementary parent Maureen Roantree told trustees they were “all very brave to open up that can of worms,” but questioned the composition of the committee, which will be comprised of  four teachers, two parents, one support staff, admin staff and two trustees.

“(May Day) is a huge part of our community, and it has huge roots in our community,” Roantree said. “A lot of the staff obviously have opinions and need to be on the committee as well, but many of the staff don’t live in New West, and I’m thinking that the balance is perhaps a little off and perhaps it would be possible to have more than just two parents because there’s such an array of opinions and ideas about how to move forward with May Day or whether to move forward with May Day.”

But teachers are the ones who will have to implement the school board’s policy, Ewen said.

“We want to have a robust offering where they can contribute what exactly impact this really has, and what ways we can adjust the process to get the best bang for the buck,” he said.

Trustee Casey Cook agreed.

“We need to sort out what the thinking is within our own organization and get on one page there before we start making representation on a community level,” he said. “We need to sort out some internal situations first and that is why the make-up of the committee is what it is.”

Only trustee Mark Gifford asked if there was any harm in allowing a couple more parents on the task force.

Superintendent Pat Duncan said the committee was designed to sort out the school district’s role in May Day, not the community’s role, and more parents on the task force could shift that focus.  

“We’re not looking at the community part of May Day. They own that part of May Day,” Duncan said. “There’s a lot of confusion about who owns which part of May Day and we really will be focusing in on the school district’s part.”

Ewen added that any parent who wanted to have input could talk to the committee regardless of its composition.

The task force will report back to the board no later than the fall of 2016 so changes could be implemented in the spring of 2017

Terms of reference for the task force will go before the Education Policy & Planning Committee Dec. 8.

If they’re approved, forms to express interest in sitting on the committee will be posted on the school district’s website.

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