About 150 people turned out to participate in School District 27’s think tank on the district’s Initial Options Report proposing closure and consolidation of schools in the district.
Participants were given about an hour to sit down around eight tables and brainstorm about their ideas on benefits, challenges, and new or alternative proposals to the Initial Options Report, during the think tank held at Columneetza secondary Thursday, Oct. 25.
After the brainstoming session someone from each table was delegated to sum up the discussion at their particular table. Recorders kept track of suggestions on large sheets of paper.
Trustees then heard formal presentations from a number of presenters.
Presenters included representatives from Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools, the Cariboo Regional District, and individuals including street nurse Patti Murphy, Kylie Philpotts, former school trustee Bruce Mack, and Chief Joe Alponse from the Anaham Band.
Think tank suggestions ran the gamut of creating a grades 7 to 9 middle school at Columneetza and making WLSS a grades 10 to 12 high school because it is closer to the city centre, to closing two, not three elementary schools, and selling off unused property in the district.
The Initial Options Report proposes closing Glendale, Kwaleen and Wildwood elementary schools in the Williams Lake area and elevating Grade 7s to the secondary school level.
Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools would then be operated as one school on two campuses with a co-ordinated curriculum.
One idea out of the think tank was to move Grade 8s back into the elementary schools rather than moving Grade 7s up to the high schools.
Another idea was to create one large kindergarten to Grade 8 elementary school, leave other elementary schools as kindergarten to Grade 6, and make Columneetza a grades 9 to 12 secondary school
In his discussion group Bruce Mack noted that the drop-out rate among First Nations students dropped by 33 per cent when Columneetza and WLSS were converted to grades 8 to 12 secondary schools a few years ago.