The Wildwood Elementary School parent advisory council is opposed to the School District 27 board’s proposal to move their grades 4 to 7 students to Cataline elementary in September.
“Parents and children of the Wildwood school wish that this wasn’t even proposed,” said PAC secretary Bawnie Ward and treasurer Sabrina Dyck in a written statement Wednesday. “The families believe that being a part of a small rural school and lots of one-on-one time makes for a great education.”
About 17 parents attended a meeting at the school Tuesday night where district staff and trustees presented the restructuring proposal.
The PAC representatives said families with multiple children were concerned about the complications of having some of their children at Wildwood and some at Cataline.
Parents were also concerned about busing and safety and about children from the small rural school getting “lost” in a larger school.
They also wanted the First Nations language program for intermediate students to continue at the new school. “Children with disabilities or anxiety are having a hard time learning of the possibility of transitions,” the PAC said. They note approximately 85 students living in the Wildwood catchment area attend other schools under the schools of choice legislation option and if those students attended the school in their own catchment area Wildwood may not be in the position it is now.
The PAC is also concerned about provincial government underfunding education in general.
“Our government has not put inflation costs into the education budget,” the PAC representatives state. “The financial shortfalls have to come from somewhere.”
On a positive point they said that if the school is kept open it will get a new well.
They ask parents with questions or suggestions to contact Wildwood school 250-989-4701.
After the meeting School District 27 trustee Bruce Mack said he was left with the impression that parents would prefer to keep the school open as a primary school rather than see it closed completely.
He said there was no question parents had concerns about the additional 15 or so minutes it would take to bus students from Wildwood to Cataline.
“Some students live past McLeese Lake so busing is certainly a legitimate concern,” Mack said. He said there were also concerns by parents about the ability of children to move from a small rural school to a school of 300 students.
But he said the majority of parents also understood that with only 31 students attending Wildwood this year the district has to look at cost-saving alternatives and that keeping Wildwood open as a primary school is preferable to closing it completely.
“The (annual) $184,000 cost saving is substantial,” Mack said.
He notes there are no Grade 7 students attending Wildwood this year and all 12 of the grades 4, 5 and 6 students are in one split class, which is not ideal.
With one student leaving, he says the projection is that only 11 students from Wildwood would be moving to Cataline in September.
By keeping Wildwood open as a primary school he said the school would continue to be available for community use. It would also be easier to reintroduce grades as they may be needed in future.
As a rural primary school he said Wildwood would also continue to receive its $157,000 a year rural schools grant.