“I fear our public system will suffer death by a thousand school closures.”
Those were the words of Nelson teacher’s union president Paul Boscariol during Tuesday evening’s Kootenay Lake school board meeting. He was seconding concerns already voiced by a number of parent representatives from Jewett, Trafalgar, Winlaw and W.E. Graham, all who face closures if the Kootenay Lake school board’s draft facilities plan goes ahead.
“The impacts are going to be huge,” Boscariol said. “What’s happening now is we’re all scurrying around as the ship’s going down, and everyone’s trying to grab a piece of flotsam to try to float.”
That’s not the right approach, according to him. Instead, he would like to see the school board and parents taking “the fight to the government.”
“We’re seeing this pitting of one against another here, and everyone wants to save their own school for equally valid reasons. But we need to ask you to rail against this government, because that’s where the problem lies. Not here.”
Parents came forward with PowerPoint presentations, letters, emails and impassioned speeches to plead with the board to change their mind.
“We’re working together, W.E. Graham and Winlaw, and we’re both being positive about seeking solutions,” said Lori Thompson, the vice chair for DPAC and member of Winlaw’s parent advisory council.
“My heart is at Winlaw. That school held my granddaughter emotionally while her Dad was dying, and it was the uniqueness of the environment of that school that got her through that period. That’s why we do want you to come back to the valley and hear what we have to say.”
Former Slocan Valley trustee and BCSTA president Penny Tees also spoke on behalf of W.E. Graham and Winlaw, saying she worked hard to “convince that community that you care about them, but now I’m not so sure.”
“Our community is in shock right now,” she said.
She invited the trustees to be transparent about their misgivings with the plan and the process, and to debate it openly. The trustees went on to do exactly that. Sharon Nazaroff admitted she considers both potential closures in Slocan Valley to be “bad options.”
“I believe we need a school in Slocan, but I also think that school is too big,” she said.
A Jewett parent gave a ten-minute presentation on the potential impacts of the closure, and pleaded with the board to visit the area. Slocan Valley parents also invited the board to visit them again.
Trustees Curtis Bendig and Bill Maslechko thanked all the parents for their feedback, and chair Lenora Trenaman made a point of repeatedly reminding all parents the plan is still in the draft stage.
And though almost nobody has voiced opposition to the closing of Trafalgar before Tuesday, former principal Bill McDonnell made sure to speak on its behalf.
“I wonder why there hasn’t been any public outcry or presentations made on behalf of that school. I wanted to share that we respect the history of that school, the students that have gone through it and the teachers who have worked there.”