Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall is urging Education Minister Mike Bernier to “properly” fund rural schools while SD8’s facilities process continues.
“In our constituencies of Nelson-Creston and Kootenay West, rural schools are facing closure and districts are charging parents for basic services such as busing,” she wrote in an open letter. “School districts are scrambling as a result of provincial government underfunding in the face of rising mandatory expenses including utilities and wages.”
Her sentiments were seconded by Slocan Valley resident and former MLA Corky Evans.
“I think the school boards in this province have been put in a terrible jam because of funding restrictions,” he said. “That said, I find it unbelievable to even consider closing a school with a growing enrollment in a growing community. That’s totally backwards as to how it should work. You look at closure where populations are declining. Something has gone deeply awry.”
Winlaw elementary is among six schools in the district targeted for potential closure.
In the lead-up to a facility planning meeting on Monday in Winlaw, parent spokeswoman and PAC member Eden DuPont said the public consultation process is their “last chance to show trustees their justification for closure is wrong, that it is based on inaccurate data and will cost them more money than it will save in the long run.”
Kaila Ellis, a former Winlaw school student and now an active parent, said the potential closure will further alienate rural communities.
“In rural settings, communities educate children. Why does it feel like the board is alienating our community once again?
“Trustees can’t hide behind the mistaken belief that they’re doing the right thing. This is the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. They need to reward success, not destroy it.”
A final decision on school closures is expected July 5.