Kootenay Lake School Board rubber stamps school closure with third reading of Facilities Draft Plan
After months of discussion, reports and meetings covering the entire Kootenay Lake School District, the Board conducted third reading of its Facilities Draft Plan on Tuesday night, a meeting that rubber-stamped the closure of several schools.
Despite a power outage and several attempted amendments, the Board carried motions surrounding the closing of schools, including Yahk Elementary by June 30, 2017.
“Zero enrolment has made this a necessity,” said Heather Suttie, trustee for Creston.
As for Creston Education Centre, the Board carried the motion to close the school, but moved the date for the closure to January 31, 2018.
There was a great deal of concern expressed regarding the alternative programs currently using the space.
Trustee Sharon Nazaroff wanted to ensure that the alternate and early years programs like Wildflower and Strong Start would be able to continue pending discussion with
“There is concern about the programs at Creston, the alternative programs need special space,” Nazaroff said.
“There needs to be a place for early years and vulnerable students.”
Board Chair Lenora Trenaman agreed with Nazaroff, and said that the Board understands how important these programs are and are hopeful for the their future.
One of the most emotional moments of the evening came when it was time to discuss the future of Trafalgar Middle School in Nelson.
Trenaman, choking back tears, explained how challenging the decision was to close the school.
“Trafalgar has roots going back years and years, and closing is very difficult,” she said.
Curtis Bending, trustee for Nelson, echoed these statements.
“It’s not an easy decision and it doesn’t come lightly. Trafalgar has a rich history in Nelson,” he said.
An addition is planned for Blewett Elementary to house the Kindergarten to Grade 7 students, with L.V. Rogers High School in Fairview taking the Grade 8s.
However, concerns about the capacity of LVR to handle this massive influx of students prompted a proposed amendment by Nelson trustee Bill Maslechko.
Maslechko, a former Superintendent of the Nelson School District, wanted assurance that there would be “additional square footage” promised for the school, but the vague wording and lack of information led to this amendment being voted down.
Trustee Bob Wright cited his reasoning for voting against the motion by explaining that Nelson has plenty of community space and partners to ensure the children will always have a place to learn.
Wright, trustee for the Salmo, Taghum, Blewett area, said Selkirk College and other community groups as potential options and that he “doesn’t feel an addition is necessary at this time.”
Trustees Bendig and Huscroft said that they were concerned about the details involved in making such an amendment, and that too much is currently unknown and a wait and see approach would work better.
However, not every decision was met with discussion or sadness. The decision to close Salmo Elementary and move the students to Salmo Secondary pending construction of an addition was met with enthusiasm and confidence.
“It’s evident the community wants to keep the children close to them, “ said Nazaroff.
“This is a good decision at the right time for this community,” said Wright.
All the trustees seemed to agree that the addition and combination of all grades to Salmo Secondary is something that the community would like to see, and that it would keep the children in the community and close to home.
Trenaman said that they have assurances from the Ministry of Education that they will prioritize this addition.
The motion carried.