District to consult on long-term plan

School trustees are planning to hold public consultation sessions this fall to assist in developing a long-term plan for the district.

School District 27 trustees are planning to hold public consultation sessions this fall to assist in developing a long-term plan for the district.

The board issued the statement April 24 following its regular meeting that was held in 100 Mile House.

The statement advises all stakeholders that the board is reviewing and consulting data and past consultation processes with regards to developing the long-term plan but anticipates no major changes for the 2012/13 school year, chair William Van Osch said in the announcement. The notice has also been sent to district staff and union representatives as well as provincial and city officials.

A public consultation is anticipated to take place this fall with proposed changes implemented for September 2013. The district has been struggling with balancing its budget for the past few years, given falling student enrollment and accompanying budget reductions imposed by Victoria and the Ministry of Education.

Van Osch says the school district has quite a few schools with low enrollment and the new long-term plan may or may not include some recommendations for school reconfiguration.

“Everything is more or less on the table, but I think there is some consensus on maintaining rural schools,” Van Osch says. While falling enrollment and corresponding financial constraints will be a component in developing the plan, Van Osch says financial difficulty is not the whole reason for developing it. He says other factors include the new B.C. Education Plan that includes strategies for more personalized learning, new technology for distance learning, and programs that give students credit for work done outside of class time.

“The hard part about planning is that the ministry has initiatives of its own that change the course of what we do,” Van Osch says. “The plan has to be somewhat fluid to accommodate initiatives of the ministry.”

He says demographics and economic shifts such as new mines opening or sawmills closing also need to be considered in planning where schools should be placed.

“Long-term planning hasn’t been done in the district for a long time because of shifting demographics and ministerial initiatives,” he says.

He says the former board started work on a long-term plan and the new board is continuing that process. Over the next few weeks Van Osch says the board will work on developing a set of guiding principals for the proposed plan and by fall have a framework in place along with some options to offer for public discussion. As part of the planning process, he says the trustees are reviewing previous board initiatives such as the Our Kids Our Future report based on public consultation that took place in the lakecity four years ago. The Our Kids Our Future public consultation followed the board commissioning of the Trillium report of 2006 called Maximizing Resources for Student Achievement: A Strategic Facilities Plan for the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District. This report made sweeping recommendations for reconfiguring, closing and consolidating schools in the Williams Lake bowl area to address issues of falling enrollment.

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