The Kootenay Lake school district is nearing the culmination of a multi-year facilities planning process that could result in school closures and will share their findings and seek community input at five upcoming meetings.
“There’s no potential plan at this point. We’re still mid-process,” superintendent Jeff Jones told the Star, noting that approximately 80 possible scenarios were put forward. “The purpose of the public meetings is to provide the communities with a view of what the scored scenarios look like.”
These meetings come after a year-long pause, something Jones said was caused by the labour-intensive process.
“Part of the work of determining viability was significant and required looking not only at projections but also history. That’s very difficult in the absence of a demographer, so this was a significant process.”
But now the board’s ready to get to work.
“I’m looking forward to picking up this work again as stakeholders are asking when it will be completed,” trustee Rebecca Huscroft said at a recent meeting, while trustee Sharon Nazaroff noted this is “great timing, especially since the ministry is now requiring long range facilities plans for capital planning.”
The school district has posted all the scenarios, as well as their evaluation criteria, on their website. A few of their stated goals: “maximize the potential to respond to future change,” “minimize total initial capital expenditure” and “improve the safety and quality of educational facilities.”
Some schools that could potentially be closed, according to scenarios listed online that were last updated on Feb. 10, 2015, include Yahk, Central, Redfish, W.E. Graham, Winlaw, South Creston and Jewett.
There are also multiple scenarios in which Wildflower moves, possibly to A.I. Collinson (presently home to L’ecole des Sentiers-alpins) or the closed Gordon Sargent. It’s been suggested Rosemont and Blewett could be combined, while South Nelson and Trafalgar could be rebuilt.
The district is also contemplating building a multi-use gymnasium and instructional space that could be used by the Rhythm Ropers and other groups. And the school district office, presently in the former North Shore school, may move into Nelson city hall.
This process has taken so long that district parent advisory council chair Shari Walsh was sitting on the board when it started and contributed to developing the criteria. Now she’s advocating on behalf of parents.
“One consideration is financial, but it also needs to make educational sense,” said Walsh, who praised the process but expressed reservations about how quickly parents are expected to respond following the meetings.
“I’m concerned about the compressed time period.”
She noted, for instance, that spring break takes place during the feedback period.
“The reason they want to get the plan out there is there’s a timeline, so this part has become a bit of a rush. But this is a time when we need to be really thoughtful.”
The presentations will take place between Feb. 24 and March 2, with the board presenting the results of their deliberations with each family of schools: Salmo, Kaslo, Slocan, Creston and Nelson.
That will be followed by a feedback period until March 28.
Afterward there will be draft plan presentations, taking place between March 30 and April 6. Parents will then have until April 30 to weigh in again.
Jones assured parents no decisions have been made, and they will be a vital part of the decision-making process.
“The plan will emerge. The scoring is a part of that and the public input around the scoring will inform the board.”
Feedback can be directed to email@example.com or to secretary-treasurer Kim Morris at 250-505-7039.
UPCOMING FACILITIES PLANNING MEETINGS
Meetings will take place between 6:30 and 9 p.m. Crawford Bay residents are welcome to attend in Kaslo or Creston
Feb. 24 – Central School gym, Nelson
Feb. 25 – PCSS Auditorium, Creston
Feb. 29 – J.V Humphries School’s Lighthouse, Kaslo
March. 1 – Salmo Secondary School
March. 2 – Mt. Sentinel, South Slocan