After much anticipation and a year of countless board meetings and months of consulting with parents, public, staff and students, the School District 27 board of education has made its decision on how to balance its budget while keeping the education of students in the forefront, states a press release from the board Wednesday.
Decisions on the Initial Options Report recommendations for closing and consolidating schools in the district to meet Ministry of Education budget constraints were made by the trustees in an open board meeting Tuesday evening.
“With declining enrolment and dwindling budgets, the board has made some very difficult decisions tonight,” said Chair Will VanOsch.
“We believe the process we used resulted in excellent feedback and ideas from all our stakeholders. We also recognize that there is not a single option out there that would please everyone. But the board has listened and tonight’s (Tuesday, Jan. 23) decisions were not made lightly.”
The trustees adopted the Initial Options Report as its comprehensive long-term plan. Some amendments were made based on updated reports from staff and public input that has been received since the report was first put to the public last September.
• In the Williams Lake Area Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools will be reconfigured to a one school, two campus model, grades 7-12. In a deviation from the original report there is a recommendation to make one campus predominantly grades 7-9 and the other predominantly grades 10-12.
A recommendation from trustee Sheila Boehm to make Columneetza the campus for 7 to 9 and WLSS the campus for 10 to 12 was withdrawn to allow staff and trustees time to closely examine various options for implementing the one school two-campus secondary model for Williams Lake.
• Glendale Elementary School is recommended for closure as originally proposed in the report. The final bylaw is scheduled to be adopted at the Jan. 29 meeting.
• Glendale’s current balanced calendar will continue at Cataline Elementary School, alongside the regular calendar at Cataline.
• No amendments were made to the Initial Options Report regarding the French Immersion program, which means the French Immersion program currently at Glendale will move to Nesika Elementary School as originally proposed.
• Kwaleen Elementary School is recommended for closure in keeping with original recommendations in the report. The final bylaw is scheduled to be adopted at the Jan. 29 meeting.
• All current Kwaleen Elementary School students will have the option of attending Chilcotin Road Elementary School. School of choice options continue to apply. The report originally had Kwaleen students in the South Lakeside catchment area going to Chilcotin Road and students living outside the catchment area returning to the school in their own catchment area. Kwaleen is currently a school of choice based on the traditional school model.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, Trustee Sheila Boehm made a resolution inviting applications from the public and schools who might like to become traditional schools or balanced calendar schools.
After discussion the resolution was defeated because the board is always open to input from parents and schools for such applications. Other trustees noted that such initiatives should come from the grass roots level.
• Wildwood Elementary School will remain open and be reconfigured into a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school. The report originally recommended Wildwood for closure. It is currently a Kindergarten to Grade 3 school.
In discussion trustees noted that enrolment at Wildwood has almost doubled in the past year and there is a potential for more students returning to the school.
Factors cited for keeping Wildwood open included drawing students back to the school by maintaining stability in keeping the school open; a strong First Nations program (increasing First Nations graduation rates is priority a goal of the district); and the potential for more families to move to the Wildwood area with the current expansion of Gibraltar Mines.
• The remaining elementary schools in Williams Lake area will be reconfigured to grades K to 6 schools.
Changes are also proposed to schools in the 100 Mile House Area.
• Peter Skene Ogden Secondary will be reconfigured to a grades 8-12 school.
• 100 Mile House Jr. Secondary is recommended for closure as the report states. The final bylaw is scheduled to be adopted Jan. 29.
The report originally proposed closing the junior secondary school and moving Grade 8s to the elementary schools.
• Buffalo Creek Elementary School is recommended for closure in keeping with original recommendations in the report. The final bylaw is scheduled to be adopted at the Jan. 29 meeting.
“With big changes come opportunities,” said Superintendent of Schools, Mark Thiessen. “I’m confident that our team will hit the ground running tomorrow to begin a solid implementation process.
“Our priority will be helping our students and staff to make the smoothest transitions possible into their new situations next year.”
The final document will be made available on the district’s website www.sd27.bc.ca over the next couple of days.