Winlaw school moved off the chopping block

Government funding announced to save rural schools, Jewett's future still in question.

Winlaw elementary seems to be have been saved from impending closure.

Winlaw elementary appears to be saved from impending closure thanks to the introduction of a $2.7 million rural education enhancement fund announced Wednesday, but how that will affect other SD8 schools such as Jewett remains to be seen.

“Ironically I learned about this announcement through the media en route to another consideration of closure consultation meeting,” board chair Lenora Trenaman told the Star Thursday morning.

“Our staff haven’t had a chance to digest or dig into what this means. Of course any money, especially when it comes to supporting schools such as Winlaw, would be more than welcome.”

But she wonders about the timing.

“We’ve been asking for funding support for years and they’ve been telling us there’s no money available for the districts. We recently found out we can retain our administrative savings, then shortly after we found out it’s ongoing. These are welcome announcements, but why are they forcing us into these confrontations first?”

Put another way by superintendent Jeff Jones: “Where is this money coming from, and how is it going to further affect our decision-making down the road?”

The ministry seems to have responded to their district’s plight after a series of planning meetings drew hundreds to discuss the potential closure of six SD8 schools. Both Jones and Trenaman are pleased the government seems to have acknowledged the unique needs of rural schools, and now that Winlaw appears to be off the chopping block, they’re feeling cautiously optimistic.

However, they’re still waiting for more information, with the biggest question being whether Jewett can apply for the same protection as Winlaw.

“It’s interesting that the announcement was framed through the lens of sharing economic prosperity and not through the lens of properly funding public education and meeting the needs of our students,” Jones said. “Also, the announcement makes reference to operating costs. We’d be interested to see whether they’re planning to address our mounting deferred maintenance costs as well.”

Contacted by the Star on Thursday, the Ministry of Education said districts will be allowed to choose which schools receive the newly announced funds, but whether Jewett would be eligible remained unclear.

According to the government’s announcement, districts will be allowed to apply for provincial funds with an estimate of savings they would realize from closing a rural school. That amount would be supplied by the province.

These funds are available to districts in rural communities outside the Lower Mainland, Greater Victoria and Kelowna areas where the closure would eliminate specific grades within the community. Closures due to facility condition or extreme enrolment decline aren’t included.

Jewett appears to meet the criteria for funding, but a news release this week only named Winlaw and Yahk. The latter school is not expected to have any students next year.

In a statement provided to the Star, the Ministry of Education said decision-making will be done by the district.

“The schools listed as eligible are based on the information in the Ministry’s system at the time of the announcement. It’s up to school districts if they want to apply for the funding to keep a school open – whether it’s on the list we provided or not. We will work with any district to determine eligibility for any school,” the statement reads.

Jones said it would “not be unrealistic” to assume the announcement will have an effect on the final facilities planning decision scheduled to be made at a meeting on July 5.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No charges yet in death of Abbotsford officer Allan Young

Police and Crown say the investigation is still underway

COLUMN: What the Nelson library needs most … is you!

Avi Silberstein of the library fills us in on the progress of re-opening

Practical fashion: Local designers make supplies for Nelson dentists

Surgical caps and gowns have been in short supply for dentists during the pandemic

UPDATE: Search effort underway for Slocan River drowning victim

The man was swimming near Winlaw on Wednesday.

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

Canada vows retaliatory measures as Trump restores tariff on Canadian aluminum

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Smoker Farms bringing craft-style cannabis to Beaverdell

Husband-wife team growing small-scale cultivations of marijuana

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Most Read