School District 27 trustees are expected to make their decisions Tuesday on recommendations for closing and consolidating schools in the Williams Lake area contained in their Initial Options Report.
The report proposes closing Wildwood, Glendale and Kwaleen elementary schools in Williams Lake and raising Grade 7 students from elementary schools to a reconfigured Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary school that would be operated as one grades 7 to 12 secondary school on two campuses.
The report was put to the public in September and decisions tonight will be made based on information received in the public consultation process and updated reports from staff on issues such as enrolment, bus routes, requirements for additional portables to house incoming students, and other financial considerations.
Trustees received the reports and discussed implications of public input during two special open board meetings Tuesday, Jan. 16 and Thursday, Jan. 17.
Public question periods on items on the agendas were held at the beginning of each meeting and following each meeting on items not on the agenda.
One of the considerations discussed by trustees last week was whether to “rip off the bandage quickly” and make changes by next September as originally proposed or phase in some of the proposed changes over 18 months.
Several trustees supported the idea of moving quickly with any changes the board makes, rather than prolonging the uncertainty for parents and students.
Proposals discussed for the secondary school included having grades 7 to 12 at both Columneetza and WLSS or having grades 7 to 9 at one school and 10 to 12 at the other school, with some shared scheduling between the campuses.
Some trustees supported the idea of 7 to 9 being at the Columneetza campus because of concerns by parents they didn’t want their young children having easy access to downtown during their lunch hours.
In his report to the board Jan. 15 Superintendent Mark Thiessen said there were ways to minimize commutes for students between the two campuses.
For instance schedules could be set up so that students bus between schools only at lunch time or changes might occur only at semester breaks.
He said class scheduling is the most difficult part of the puzzle for operating one school on two campuses.
The report recommends hiring a consultant to work on details related to the restructuring.
When it comes to options for configuring the 7 to 12 secondary school, one school/two campus model, trustee Doug Neufeld said the board needs to be clear from the start which direction it will take so students are not subject to a lot of change.
The idea of removing students from school classrooms and putting them into portables didn’t sit well with several of the parents who spoke at the meetings.
The Initial Option Report recommends that Nesika elementary receive the French Immersion students now at Glendale Elementary.
The addition of two portable classrooms at Nesika is recommended to accommodate classroom sizing, growth of French Immersion, and the current learning resources program.
The learning assistance program at Nesika which currently has its own dedicated space would also be impacted by the influx of Glendale students.
The Initial Options Report proposes that the Glendale regular program students and Wildwood students would move to Cataline elementary school requiring use of the annex.
Trustees also discussed possibilities for continuing the year round program now at Glendale which would require the addition of one or two portable classrooms.
The Initial Options Report proposes to move students living in the Kwaleen elementary catchment area to Chilcotin Road elementary school and return other students at the school to their original catchment area schools. This change would require the addition of one portable.
Given public consultation the trustees are also considering moving all Kwaleen elementary students to Chilcotin Road which would require the addition of two portables. A portable is already in use on the site.
The trustees also discussed grandfathering Kwaleen siblings who are not yet in school to attend Chilcotin Road.
Roller reported that Chilcotin Road would be fairly full for the first couple of years if all current Kwaleen students were grandfathered into Chilcotin Road but the long term projection is for a continued reduction in student population over the next 10 years.