Public consultations on school closures begin in affected communities
The final round of public consultation meetings on school closures in the region takes place this month as School District 8 considers putting the lock on the doors at six West Kootenay schools, including one in Nelson.
Nelson’s Trafalgar Middle School, Winlaw Elementary School, Salmo Elementary School, Jewett Elementary School, Yahk Elementary School and the Creston Education Centre are slated for closure as part of the SD8 board of trustees’ May 3 draft facilities plan.
Although the draft plan “contemplates the possibility of several school closures, no decisions have been made in this regard,” read a school district press release, with the exception of Yahk Elementary School.
There is a projected enrolment of zero students for Yahk Elementary School for next year, so a decision to close the school has been made for the 2016/2017 school year.
“This does not mean (the board has) decided to close these six schools,” read the district release. “It means that they will further consider each option” before making a decision.
The meetings come after the province redirected $25 Million in administrative savings from school districts back into frontline services for students.
Trustee Curtis Bendig pointed to declining enrolment, government funding and aging infrastructure as the reasons for the school closure considerations.
“The draft plan is a starting point for conversations with communities about the 5,000 students we have now, and the 5,000 students to come,” he said on the district’s website.
The school board must do its due diligence to investigate all avenues and consult the community before officially closing a school and completing a final facilities plan — according to its own bylaws.
This “consideration of closure” process takes place prior to making a decision regarding the permanent closure of any school, and it begins June 13, ending two weeks later in Yahk.
The process involves a 60-day consultation period during which time trustees “can consider many aspects of the scenario, before making a decision to close a school.”
At these meetings the board will hear from the communities involved, “which will help the trustees in their final deliberation,” the district’s website noted.
The consideration of closure process includes a community consultation meeting in each community where a school closure is being considered. As well, email addresses for each school being considered will be set up for input (see below).
“The board received hundreds of pieces of feedback from constituents as a result of the scoring feedback period and is committed to its draft plan,” said trustee Dawn Lang.
And the evidence is mounting for closures of the six schools.
“In the first place, we want more programs and services for students. Infrastructure can’t be addressed with current annual facilities grant funding,” said board chair Lenora Trenaman in the release.
“With empty space and aging buildings we can’t invest in learning, in classrooms. The draft plan is somewhere to start from.”
The school closures public meeting schedule begins Monday, June 13 in the Winlaw Elementary School gym (6-9 p.m.).
People who wish to speak as a delegation (15-minute time limit) are asked to contact the school board office at least 48 hours prior to the meeting to get put on the list.
Creston Education Centre meeting room is the stage on Wednesday, June 15 (6-9 p.m.), Jewett Elementary School hosts a meeting Monday, June 20 (6-9 p.m.) and Nelson’s Trafalgar Middle School will hold a meeting Tuesday, June 21 (6-9 p.m.) in the school library.
Salmo Elementary School Library will be the venue for a Wednesday, June 22 (6-9 p.m.) meeting, while community residents in Yahk will have their say in the Yahk Elementary School Library on Monday, June 27 (6-9 p.m.) to close out the final round of meetings.
“It’s a very challenging conversation and we want to hear from everyone affected in the district,” said school trustee Sharon Nazaroff. “Making change is hard and when we walk away after completing this work we need to work together.”
The next step
If one or all six of the schools were to close, the board put a plan in place to deal with the disposal of the properties.
The draft facilities plan includes a plan for “disposal for any SD8 property that does not presently provide programming for SD8 students.”
In addition to the public consultation meetings, the board approved two special meetings, one on July 5 for first and second reading of the School Closure Bylaw, and one on July 12 for third reading of the School Closure Bylaw.
It is at these meetings where the board’s final decision regarding the school closures will be made.
According to the board’s decision on May 3, the only school that will be closed for the 2016-2017 school year is Yahk Elementary School.
Delegations requests must be forwarded to Audrey Mackenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org a minimum of 48 hours prior to public meeting. Note: Delegations are limited to four per meeting.
Emails for input can be sent to: