School District 8 is considering relocating students for the 2020-2021 year to relieve several schools that are operating over capacity.
The plan would see Grade 9 classes move from L.V. Rogers to Trafalgar Middle School in order to address a lack of space at Nelson’s high school.
In the Slocan Valley, Grade 6 students at Winlaw Elementary and Brent Kennedy Elementary could be moved into a new middle school located at Mount Sentinel Secondary.
A decision on the changes could also be coming within the next month. The district has scheduled public meetings to discuss the plan for Monday, 5 to 7 p.m., at Winlaw Elementary as well as Dec. 5, 5 to 7 p.m., at Trafalgar.
Superintendent Christine Perkins said the board will likely vote on the plan at its Dec. 10 meeting.
“We want people’s ideas,” said Perkins. “We’ve got an issue, we’ve got to solve it.”
LVR currently has 698 students and an operating capacity of 725. Perkins said the high school has one more year before the number of students exceeds that capacity.
Trafalgar, meanwhile, is home to 413 students but can house up to 575.
“Hopefully it’s a little bit easier in that Trafalgar used to go to Grade 9 and people know the great things that are offered there …,” she said. “We have two fabulous schools. It’s just that one is absolutely jam packed.”
Trafalgar has had several different iterations of grades since it opened in 1928.
It was initially planned as an elementary school in 1923 that would relieve student populations at Hume and Central schools, but opened as a junior high school with Grades 8 to 10. It moved to Grade 7 to 9 in the late 1980s, and then changed again in 2008 to house Grade 6 to 8.
A 2016 facilities plan called for a new South Nelson Elementary that would replace Trafalgar entirely, but a lack of funding from the Ministry of Education eventually scrapped that plan.
A new 2019-2029 facilities plan, which could also be approved at the Dec. 10 board meeting, will likely recommend renovations to keep Trafalgar open.
Trafalgar principal Paul Luck said his school has room to include up to seven additional classes of students.
“Because this school was built in a different era, the size of the school itself for the number of students is huge,” said Luck. “We have a full fine arts centre, fantastic gym, we have at least 2,500 feet of shop area, we have a maker space lab, we have a band room. I mean, it’s a great facility.”
Meanwhile in the Slocan Valley, Winlaw Elementary has 103 students but should only have 88, while Brent Kennedy is exceeding its 203 student limit by 22 children.
Under the proposed plan, both of those schools would become kindergarten to Grade 5.
Grade 6 students would then be housed with Grades 7 to 9 in a different part of Mount Sentinel, and would be on their own timetable with extra electives and additional supervision. Perkins said some children could also be moved to Slocan’s W.E. Graham Elementary, which is under capacity by 156 students.
The model for Mount Sentinel already exists in the district. Crawford Bay, J.V. Humphries and W.E. Graham offer a mix of elementary and secondary classes.
Mount Sentinel is also well under capacity. The high school has 261 students this year, which is 139 short of what it can house.
But the proposal is already causing concern among parents.
Cheryl Tereposky, who has two children at Brent Kennedy, is critical of the plan’s abbreviated timeline to a board vote as well as what she believes will be a stressful move for both students and parents.
“We have always had to take our children in Grade 7 to the high school, and we are all emotionally well prepared for that,” said Tereposky.
“Right now, mentally, we are not prepared to send our young kids to the Big House is what we call it.”
Overcrowded schools are an issue elsewhere in the West Kootenay. Trustees at School District 20 are also looking at plans that would move Grade 7 students from three elementary schools into either portable classrooms or to Castlegar’s Stanley Humphries Secondary next September.