Redfish elementary school at Longbeach will add Grade 6 in 2019 and Grade 7 in 2020, the Kootenay Lake board of education has decided.
The school presently has about 100 students in kindergarten to Grade 5 but the parent advisory council asked that the school be reconfigured to include the additional grades.
Board chair Lenora Trenaman, who represents the Redfish catchment area, put forward the motion this month.
“There were some concerns of course,” she said. “But at the end, it had very strong support by the board and our staff.”
Elementary schools in the Nelson area are all configured K-to-5, but Redfish used to be a K-to-6. In 2014, parents requested their school retain the older grades due to the distance required for students travel to Nelson, but they were turned down.
The district’s present facilities plan, however, calls for Nelson-area elementary schools to eventually be configured as K-to-7. “So Redfish was quite happy with that, but also realized it might not happen for some time because it’s all based on the [overall] facilities plan moving ahead,” Trenaman explained.
The board supported expediting the move at Redfish because it has room to accommodate extra students. Its catchment area stretches from Nine Mile to Coffee Creek.
However, Trenaman said they opted to delay the change for one year because the current Grade 6 class is already prepared to move on, having completed orientation at Trafalgar Middle School.
She said a few people wondered whether the decision will lead to similar requests from other elementary schools: “My position is that first of all they haven’t asked, and second they would have to have space.”
Trenaman said Redfish’s situation is also different than the rest of the elementary schools that feed into Trafalgar, since they’re all in Nelson or close by, whereas Redfish is 27 km away. She said the “tight-knit” communities on the North Shore want to “keep kids as close to home as possible.”
They board’s motion also left the door open to adding Grade 8 at Redfish as early as 2021.
The district plans to build a new South Nelson school on the existing Trafalgar site and turn L.V. Rogers secondary into an 8-12. If that plan is delayed and LVR isn’t ready to accommodate Grade 8 by the time Redfish students reach the end of Grade 7, they might have to take Grade 8 at Trafalgar and then move on to LVR for Grade 9.
Trenaman said they would prefer to minimize the number of transitions students have to make.
Parent advisory council chair Raeanne Gow, who was present for the board’s discussion, said she was “very pleased” with the decision. She said there was some pessimism in the community prior to the meeting because the request was previously denied, but she felt the timing was right.
In her letter to the board, she wrote Redfish “has the room, is ready for more students, and wants their children to stay in their community longer.”
However, she hoped Redfish would be able to add Grade 6 starting this fall. “If we had the proposal on the agenda in January, I would have pushed harder for this year’s Grade 5s to have that option. But they’ve already been to Trafalgar to see what it’s like and chosen their courses for next year.”
She added that even with the addition of Grades 6 and 7, some families may still choose to place their children in French immersion or Trafalgar, so the overall population of Redfish may not grow by much. There are presently 14 students in Grade 4, compared to 24 in Grade 5.
Gow said the school is used to split classes and she expects a Grade 5/6 split in the first year of the transition. After that, a room currently used for music, French, and teacher prep will probably need to be turned into a full-time classroom.