SD8 secretary-treasurer Kim Morris addressed parents at Blewett Elementary Monday evening, updating them on the district’s facilities plan. Concerns were raised about overcrowding, especially at L.V. Rogers. Superintendent Christine Perkins (left) promised to look into the situation. Photo: Will Johnson

SD8 treasurer: ‘We need to talk about L.V. Rogers’

Superintendent Christine Perkins is looking into situation at Nelson’s only high school

Something needs to be done about L.V. Rogers.

There are currently 704 students enrolled at Nelson’s only high school, but the district only receives funding for 633 because many of the students aren’t registered for a full course load — which puts additional pressure on a facility already on the verge of overcrowding.

Recently Principal Tamara Malloff and Vice Principal Brent Cross sat down with Superintendent Christine Perkins and showed her a floor map of their campus that demonstrates how every single room is being utilized at all times and many of the classes are capped at 30 students — with waitlists. The gym is being used at all times of the day, all day long.

Pile on top of that the recent Supreme Court ruling on classroom size and composition, which has mandated that districts return staffing levels to where they were at in 2002. This has created an additional logistical hurdle for administrators, and you have a situation that’s looking increasingly unsustainable — and now they want to introduce Grade 8s to the mix, as part of their long-term facilities plan.

“We have to talk about L.V. Rogers,” secretary-treasurer Kim Morris told parents during an update meeting at Blewett Elementary on Monday evening. This was a sentiment echoed by Perkins, who was attending her first facilities planning meeting since taking the job at the beginning of September.

Perkins told parents the numbers at L.V. Rogers are concerning, especially because they’re not seeing the same course load problem at other schools in the district like Mount Sentinel.

“I know I need to be asking a lot of questions,” she said.

High school configuration part of larger strategy

You can’t really talk about L.V. Rogers without talking about the feeder schools in the area, as SD8 is in the midst of a long-term facilities plan that will see Trafalgar Middle School torn down and replaced with a brand new South Nelson Elementary. Any decision made about the high school will be contingent on that successfully happening.

If everything goes according to plan, the REACH alternate program will remain at Central School alongside an expanded Wildflower. As for elementary schools, Hume and Rosemont will get some additional students, while an expansion is planned for at-capacity Blewett.

Ultimately the district needs to make a compelling business case to the Ministry of Education, proving that their big picture plan is a financially savvy move. The district will also ultimately cover some of the renovation and expansion costs — they’ve been diverting cash into an account for this specific purpose — but nothing can happen without the government’s backing.

With all of this in mind, L.V. Rogers has proven to be a bit of a thorn in their side as they look at juggling all their different priorities. This week capital planning officer Damien Crowell toured the district, starting at Salmo Elementary, to assess the buildings and learn more about the district’s plan.

“There’s a new government, so it’s important for new eyes to be on this project,” said Morris.

But while that process is underway, L.V. Rogers teacher Sherry Lynn McGregor feels the high school should be receiving some more immediate attention. She said the numbers discussed during the meeting don’t reflect the reality on the ground.

“We are scrambling to find places to put people,” she said. “And it looks like it’s only going to get worse.”

McGregor was working at the school when Grade 9s were introduced, and she said it was a shock to their system. She can’t imagine a whole extra grade there, and believes the facility can’t handle it. As parent advisory council chair Sheri Walsh pointed out, the lockers and washrooms in the school are already in need of attention.

New curriculum, new spaces

Could some of the space issues become a moot point?

Morris thinks so, especially if the district can successfully embrace the new curriculum’s mandate to move education beyond the walls of the classroom. She believes students should be getting out into the community, perhaps playing music at the Capitol Theatre or doing an apprenticeship with a local employer.

There are still unknown elements to how things will shake out with L.V. Rogers, such as how exactly the Supreme Court ruling will affect their space issues and whether or not they’ll receive the funds they’ve asked for from the Ministry of Education, but she’s confident that they have the flexibility to tweak the district’s strategy if and when they need to.

She doesn’t think the troubles at L.V. Rogers have the potential to derail the larger plan. According to the trustees, they’re doing the best they can with the resources they have. Some of the problems they’re facing have no obvious solution other than more funding from the government, something they can’t count on.

“The money train hasn’t pulled into Nelson yet,” trustee Curtis Bendig told the crowd.

“We just need to be as ready as we can be when it does.”

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