SD8 Superintendent: `We need a school but have too much building’

The Kootenay Lake School board is urging the Ministry of Education to re-evaluate how it calculates rural school utilization.

Protesters are seen here advocated for rural schools such as Winlaw and Jewett

What happens when you have a half-empty rural school?

Take W.E. Graham Elementary in Slocan, for example, or Jewett in Meadow Creek. Both of them were almost closed as part of this year’s facilities planning process, and were only rescued due to a last-minute provincial government cash infusion.

The trouble? Their utilization rate—a number calculated by the government that compares population to capacity—are still less than ideal. And that has a negative effect on the district’s overall numbers, effectively putting them in hot water with the Ministry of Education.

“In our less rural areas we have schools that are quite full because of population, but in far-reaching areas we have schools that are not full because of population, or shift in demographic,” Superintendent Jeff Jones told the Star, following Tuesday night’s board meeting at W.E. Graham.

“So what happens with a school like Jewett is when we calculate the district-wide utilization rate it is impacted by having that school as part of the community.”

He summed up the problem they often face with rural schools: “We need a school but have too much building.”

But there’s another thing to factor in: StrongStart. A Pre-K program offered in many of the rural schools, it’s not currently being factored into the utilization numbers because it falls outside the district’s K-12 purview.

“We very much support early learning,” chair Lenora Trenaman told the Star. “But we have not been given consideration for the utilization that we provide StrongStart programs in all of our facilities.

“We want to know: what is the ministry’s expectation of us? Our domain is K-12 but we’re encouraged to provide StrongStart within our premises, which supports our education for kindergarten and beyond.”

Slocan Valley trustee Sharon Nazaroff, who was a fierce advocate for Winlaw during the facilities planning process, put forward a motion at the board meeting that called on the ministry to calculate utilization rates differently for rural schools.

Trenaman noted that upon receiving the rural school fund from the province they were provided with the criteria for a school being classified as rural. According to their numbers every school in SD8 qualifies.

And Jones figures this will be a hot topic this school year.

“I suspect this will be one of those conversations that will be ongoing.”

The motion passed, and now Nazaroff is scheduled to attend an upcoming Kootenay Boundary meeting of the BCSTA (BC School Trustees Association) where she will request the matter be taken to the provincial council of the BCSTA.

“This could essentially change the way we look at funding formulas for capital renewal,” said Jones. “In Nelson, if we had a 90 percent utilization rate we could use that independent of whatever’s happening with our schools that have lower enrolment.”

That would be good news for students, teachers, parents and administrators alike, said Jones.

“This would enable us to make a better case for new buildings and improvements,” he said, “as we continue to shift the way we meet the needs of students.”

 

Just Posted

Four-storey development slated for Hall-Front intersection in Nelson

Building will be mixed commercial and residential

Wildflower School to keep its bee hive

City council voted to give the school a bylaw exemption

Nearby wildfire closes Idaho Peak

The popular hiking spot is off limits to the public

Granite Pointe’s GM honoured among world’s top golf teachers

David Belling has been included on a top-100 list

VIDEO: Nelson Leafs prepare for new season with training camp

Forty-seven players hit the ice last weekend

VIDEO: Monday Roundup: Aug. 13, 2018

The Nelson Star’s weekly news roundup

Plane fighting wildfire crashes near Canada/U.S. border

The plane experienced an unknown problem.

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Darkwoods Conservation is closed to all public road access due to wildfires

Boat access to Tye along the shore of Kootenay Lake is still permitted.

Most Read