The School District 27 board needs to pay closer attention to where parents are actually sending their children to school before they enact their Initial Options Report, says Katie Dyck, a parent of three children attending Kwaleen Elementary School.
Dyck, the newly elected parent advisory council president, has written a letter to the board outlining her concerns with the Initial Options Report that proposes closing Glendale, Wildwood and Kwaleen elementary schools.
By the enrollment numbers, Dyck says Marie Sharpe and Wildwood elementary schools are struggling to keep students, while Kwaleen and Glendale are operating at or near capacity.
“I don’t think the big picture has been looked at,” Dyck says.
In her letter to the board she states: “I feel that the board has consistently and unreasonably ignored the option of closing Marie Sharpe, and I am unsure as to why.
“Marie Sharpe is the oldest school in Williams Lake and it is therefore reasonable to believe that it will require more money to rehabilitate and bring up to code than any other school. I do not wish to slander the educational aspect of this school, because as far as administration and teaching goes I am sure it is equal to any other school in the city.”
She says she is concerned with safety issues surrounding Marie Sharpe, which require the school to be locked up during the day to prevent access by a certain criminal element.
“This does not seem like the ideal environment for kids to learn and develop,” Dyck says. “I consider a site like Kwaleen’s, with plenty of fresh air and space, and little to no drive-by or walk-through traffic, in comparison, a far more appealing site for an elementary school.”
But perhaps a more telling judgement lies with the families of Williams Lake themselves who are choosing not to send their children to Marie Sharpe, Dyck says.
According to the 2006 Trillium Report commissioned by the board of the day to review efficiencies in the district, she says Marie Sharpe was operating at 59 per cent capacity.
This year she says Marie Sharpe is operating at 42 per cent capacity while Kwaleen is currently operating at 91 per cent capacity and Glendale is operating at 100 per cent capacity.
“The numbers don’t lie, and with the school of choice option available to us all, why isn’t Marie Sharpe full?” Dyck asks.
She goes on to question the board’s reasons for keeping Marie Sharpe open while reducing options for parents by closing Glendale with its year-round program and Kwaleen with its traditional school model.
She asks why the board would want to remove choice for parents when the Initial Options Report says the board’s number 1 guiding principle is “excellence in education, choice and opportunity.”
She adds that Kwaleen’s FSA scores are high and rising and Glendale’s FSA scores are also good.
Further she notes that 60 per cent of students attending Kwaleen live within the Kwaleen catchment area, and the other 40 per cent of students are there by choice.
“While we all understand the concept of tightening the belt, I would like to ask that the school board look at the numbers as a whole for all schools as well as community response to the schools before making your decisions about which to close,” Dyck says.