Twin Rivers school is full to capacity, but Grade 7 students will be able to continue to attend with the addition of some portables. Photo: John Boivin

SD 20 trustees won’t send Castlegar Grade 7s to high school

Board decides to install portables at two schools instead

Grade 7 students at two Castlegar elementary schools won’t be going to high school next year after all.

Trustees of School District 20 voted unanimously Monday night against the controversial scheme that upset many parents in the community.

Instead, the district will buy two portables to house students at their current elementary schools.

“I’ve changed my mind on that,” said Darrel Ganzert, the board’s vice-chair. “It became very clear recently that that is a very short-term solution to the problem …

“Besides the public, who convinced me it was not a good idea, the educational leaders in our district did not think it would be a good idea to move Grade 7 students into the high school either,” he added.

The board raised the possibility of moving students next year from Twin Rivers and Kinnaird elementary to Stanley Humphries Secondary School. Both elementary schools are over-capacity, while SHSS has some room to spare.

But parents bristled at the thought of their children attending the high school a year early.

SEE: Castlegar Parents ask school board to keep Grade 7 in elementary schools

About two dozen parents showed up for the board meeting, held at Kinnaird Elementary in Castlegar. Most listened patiently while trustees explained why they decided not to move the children, and buy portables instead.

“The demographics have shown Castlegar is becoming the centre of the West Kootenay, economically,” said trustee Gord Smith. “It’s bringing people from all over B.C. and Canada, so it’s reasonable to expect there’s going to be growth in this community.”

“I’m quite comfortable leaving Stanley Humphries with that below-capacity level because I think we will see that population grow into that school.”

The portables will be installed at Kinnaird and Twin Rivers Elementary. Board superintendent Bill Ford estimated the portables would cost about $135,000 each — but that’s before shipping, taxes, site preparation, and installation costs.

After the meeting, parent Robyn Varga said she was happy to hear her son wouldn’t have to go to Stanley Humphries for Grade 7 next year.

“I don’t think they should be mixed with high school kids. It would change him,” she said. “They do stuff as elementary kids that they wouldn’t do in high school.”

Newly-elected board chair Catherine Zaitsoff said input from parents made a difficult decision easier.

“When we got the survey results, and saw it was 75 per cent, we knew right away,” she said. “It’s really an important point for me, that there be community involvement and collaboration, and I think this went really well.

“It was a really hard decision to make, to find our way, but with the help of the community I’m excited for the future.”

However, trustees also said they realized the portables were only a temporary solution.

The district is going to launch a study to plan the district’s facility needs.

With Castlegar projected to grow, that will most likely mean a new school in the south end of the city, they said — but that is a discussion for a future date.

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