Winlaw rebuild tops list of Slocan Valley school options

Rebuilding Winlaw elementary school is the highest ranking scenario among Slocan Valley schools.

Several scenarios presented at a public meeting Wednesday would result in the closure or reconfiguration of W.E. Graham school in Slocan

Rebuilding Winlaw elementary school is the highest ranking scenario among Slocan Valley schools as identified by a process looking at reconfiguration options in the Kootenay Lake district.

Thirteen scored scenarios were presented at a public meeting Wednesday night at Mount Sentinel, six of which involved closing W.E. Graham school in Slocan.

Second highest on the list was renovating Winlaw school, a K-6 built in the 1970s that is operating above capacity. However, secretary-treasurer Kim Morris cautioned that although the rebuild/renovate options scored well in the exercise, that doesn’t necessarily mean the district can count on provincial government funding.

The third option was closing Winlaw and moving students to W.E. Graham, while the fourth through seventh options all involved closing W.E. Graham and moving students to some combination of Winlaw, Brent Kennedy, and Mount Sentinel.

Option eight would add a portable at Winlaw, option nine is the status quo, and option ten would convert Winlaw to a K-3 and W.E. Graham to a 4-6. Presently the latter is K-10.

In 2011, the board rejected a proposal to turn Winlaw into a K-3 and W.E. Graham into a 4-10.

During the presentation, district staff outlined the complex scoring process they used to arrive at the rankings, which evaluated 50 proposed scenarios using 16 criteria, including a variety of economic, educational, operational, and strategic factors. While the exercise seeks more efficient use of space, it also considers the impact on students.

The results have been presented over the last week in a series of public meetings for each “family of schools” Nelson, Creston, Kaslo, Salmo, and the Slocan Valley.

Morris said their task now is to take public feedback and come up with an overall plan. She said it’s unlikely they will simply choose the top-ranked option in each family of schools, especially if it means tying the district’s future to funding to build several new schools or major renovations.

Although some changes could take effect by September, it’s more likely whatever plan the board ultimately adopts will be phased in over several years.

Morris said the district has lost 2,000 students since 1996-97 and has about 1,750 empty classroom seats. It also has $83 million in looming capital works or deferred maintenance.

About 35 people attended Wednesday’s meeting. Slocan Valley trustee Sharon Nazaroff said she was pleased with the turnout.

“It’s great to hear all the questions and feedback,” she said. “I feel our staff is prepared to be open and listen. What we’re presenting is data. It’s impartial, not emotional.”

The complete scoring results of the various scenarios and the methodology used to arrive at them will be available Friday afternoon on the district’s website, sd8.bc.ca.

Feedback is being gathered until March 28, by which time a draft plan is expected to be ready for further public presentations. A second round of input will then be collected until April 30.

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