Kootenay Lake parents have already produced a modified facilities plan for SD8, aiming to expand Wildflower and eliminate the need to introduce K to 7 at Central. Now they need to sell everybody else on it.
“The parents at Wildflower and South Nelson recognize the board has these needs to address,” parent Jay Blackmore told the Star. “What we’re proposing is rather than dictating a certain number of South Nelson and Rosemont kids coming to Central to create a separate elementary stream, we’ll expand Wildflower classes and offer up room to both.”
Is this tweak likely to happen? Impossible to say.
But it was one of the many suggestions put forward by the approximately 120 parents, principals, teachers and trustees in attendance during a facilities planning meeting on Monday evening.
The current plan, N30, proposes closing Trafalgar. Very few people seem to have a problem with that move—it’s the logistics of the rest of the puzzle that have people stumped, and everyone agrees this decision-making process is painful and complex.
“I wince every time I think about closing Trafalgar,” trustee Bill Maslechko told those present. “It’s agony but I still think it’s the right thing to do.”
And they realize the plan has drawbacks. As trustee Curtis Bendig put it: “This makes our schools fuller. Fuller than they already are. Especially at L.V. Rogers.”
It’s those capacity concerns that the parents are aiming to address.
According to the submitted proposal from parents, dated April 2, their modified version of N30 would “offer more choices to parents rather than forcing student relocation…based on catchment” and would enable “the inevitable growth of the Wildflower program”.
According to the capacity calculations they’ve done, the new plan would bring Rosemont to 88 per cent capacity, South Nelson to 85 per cent and Central to 89 per cent. This would be made possible by moving 86 French Immersion students into the same building as Wildflower, joining REACH, a move that would put the majority of the alternative programs in one place.
And that would address another issue: REACH doesn’t want to move.
One teacher from the alternate program called it “very successful” and noted seven students are going to graduate this year. Some will even go on to college. But he doesn’t believe that will be the case if they move to L.V. Rogers.
“These are great kids but they’re not great mainstream kids. Our students don’t even ride the bus. If you move them to L.V. Rogers, you’ll lose them,” he said, to enthusiastic applause. “What’s going to happen to these at-risk youth?”
Music teacher Lisa Backus expressed concern that middle school music programs will no longer exist, which means students will not get to participate in band until high school. Superintendent Jeff Jones suggested a traveling music teacher that could visit all the elementary schools, but she called that “impossible” if there isn’t a dedicated band space and a place to store instruments in each school.
One parent expressed concerns that Trafalgar will become a liability to the city, since it isn’t slated for demolition but to be sold as-is. He believes it could end up being an eyesore and a continuing problem.
“I don’t know anybody who would pay anything for Trafalgar,” he said.
Central would require extensive renovations to accommodate the draft plan’s inclusion of K to 7, and that would include an elevator to make it wheelchair accessible. The cash infusion from the ministry will be attractive because it will ultimately save them $23 million.
The aim is to move funnelled money away from “bricks and mortar” and towards learning. Secretary-treasurer Kim Morris also noted that they haven’t considered cutting back on maintenance staff, because they’re still going to need them to address their aging infrastructure.
“We want to move towards a preventative maintenance model,” she said.
And though this laborious multi-year process is ongoing, it still remains to be seen whether the ultimate plan will receive backing from higher up. During table discussions, parents discussed the implications of that.
“Let’s not forget: this all started because the Ministry of Education is continuing to underfund education,” Backus told her group. “They’re the ones forcing us into this situation.”
Though the focus of the evening was Nelson, the surrounding areas were also discussed. One of the most contentious decisions will be whether to close W.E. Graham or Winlaw, with cases being made for both.
And though some parents are concerned the ministry won’t approve the plan, or may leave South Nelson in “purgatory” without rebuilding it, Morris believes the district has built a stronger case for renewal than with previous requests for funds.
“We feel quite optimistic. Nelson’s time is coming.”
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the meeting took place Thursday.)