School District 27 trustees were busy making a list and checking it twice Tuesday evening in anticipation of making some final decisions in January around possible school closures in the district.
During a special board meeting to discuss public feedback to its Initial Options Report on reconfiguration of schools in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, the trustees made a series of motions directing staff to research some of the public’s comments and report back as early as possible.
“The motions were based on reports and what we’ve heard so far from the public,” said superintendent of schools Mark Thiessen.
Staff will look at a grade 7-12 configuration in a one school, two campus, model for Williams Lake, as well as the logistics of a 7-9 and 10-12 configuration.
“I went into this thinking I wanted a pure middle school and pure high school, but due to the fact that what we would lose with the ability of flexibility and choices of electives, I would like it that students go back and forth,” trustee Sheila Boehm said.
Trustee Tanya Guenther agreed saying both high schools have lots to offer and the one school two campus model will allow students to have the best advantage.
“I find it difficult to think of one being for younger grades and one for older grades because students can benefit from both.”
It will look at the possibility of moving all the students from Kwaleen elementary school, if it should close, to Chilcotin Road elementary school.
The board wanted to know how many portables the site can support.
Another query was for an updated report on enrollment and capacity of all the buildings, which secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller said the final figures were just made available to the district in November.
“The board previously used numbers from September 2011/2012. September 2012’s number will now be the base.”
There was a discussion around school of choices being housed in the existing Williams Lake secondary school building, but eventually the board said no to the idea.
Wildwood bussing routes and the length of time students would spend riding buses was an issue, so the board asked for research on turning Wildwood into a one-room school, K-3, with a capped enrollment of 22 students.
Trustee Sheila Boehm, based on public feedback, asked about the possibility of Glendale students, remaining in the year-round school calendar in portables at Cataline elementary school. Presently the program occupies three classrooms in Glendale school, and board members asked if it could be moved into the space adjacent to Glendale school presently used as a resource centre, daycare, and Strong Start program.
“They want to keep the calendar any way they can,” Roller said.
Thiessen agreed and said they are willing to go wherever to keep it alive.
When it comes to potential school closures, Boehm asked if the public can continue to use school grounds and what the liabilities are.
“Both Wildwood and Kwaleen mentioned their ice rinks. They also have community gardens, etc. What are the risks?” she asked.
Roller said anyone can use them at their own risk, but that is not a waver.
“If anything were to happen, we’d still be sued. Liability is there regardless of what’s going on. That’s why we took the playground out of the Poplar Glade school site,” Roller explained. Children were using the playground there, but it was becoming unsafe.
Bussing was also discussed and board chair William Van Osch’s motion directing staff to look at charging parents for bussing if their children are attending a school of choice, rather than in their catchment, was passed unanaimously.
“I would like staff to look at how many students could be charged and what would be a reasonable rate,” he said.
Boehm, however, said she worried about creating a two-tier system where only parents that can afford it would be able to choose which school their children attend.
There were also concerns about how much time will be needed to make the transition to one high school, two campuses in Williams Lake and asked staff to determine what at a six-month implementation would look like or the option of a staged approach.
“There will be a huge amount of change happening and we want to make sure it’s happening in the best way,” said trustee Guenther.
The next special board meetings will take place Jan. 8 at PSO in 100 Mile House and Jan. 15 at the board office in Williams Lake, where the board will continue its deliberations on options. On Jan. 22, final decisions will be made, and on Jan. 29 the board will hold its regular meeting.
Research will also focus on the possibility of going to go grade 8 – 12 in 100 Mile House.
“In the Initial Options Report it was proposed to go 9-12 and K-8, but they asked district staff tonight to research the possibility of K-7 and 8-12 all at Peter Skene Ogden,” Thiessen said. Right now grade 8-12 is at two separate schools.