Like most people in these social distancing times, the parents of Wildflower School are asking for more space, but the school board has other designs.
To keep the entire range of Wildflower classes under one roof, the Wildflower parents and parent’s advisory council (PAC) have petitioned the School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) board of trustees. Again.
Wildflower Middle School currently has insufficient space allotted to them within Central School — there are currently three middle school classes and one class is under the gymnasium in the basement and is subject to excessive noise.
Kelly Peloso, who currently has a son in the Wildflower program and also volunteers and mentors at the school, said senior school district staff suggested at an April 6 meeting that the proposed stage area classroom would not be suitable for a learning environment.
“Perhaps the teachers of Wildflower and REACH should be consulted and asked if it would be a suitable space,” she noted.
“We need long-term certainty for Wildflower School, and ask that the SD8 trustees amend the 2016 facilities plan resolution that states that ‘grades 7-9 may relocate to Trafalgar’.”
Lenora Trenaman, chair of the SD8 board of education, said the idea of expansion at Central School was a difficult one.
“Unfortunately, there aren’t any modest improvements that could be made to the Central building that could add new classroom space,” she said in an email interview with The Nelson Daily. “Creating new classrooms would require major investments.”
Three years ago there was an entire floor of classrooms that would have accommodated Wildflower and Reach, instead the administration offices of SD8 chose to move in.
“We strongly feel that the needs of our children and teachers come secondary to their district office space plans,” said Peloso.
“Administrative space seems to take precedence over classroom space for students at Central School. Consolidating SD8’s footprint is more important than quality education for students at Wildflower and REACH.”
In 2016, the school board resolved to move the board office to the Central School building, to reduce the overall footprint of facilities in Nelson and the district, said Trenaman. The board was able to move its office spaces to Central at low-cost and sell the former board office property on Johnstone Road.
The proceeds from the sale of the former board office have been re-directed into upgrading facilities and learning environments district-wide, she added.
“At the same time, there remains more than enough capacity in the Nelson Family of Schools to provide excellent learning environments for all current and forecast students,” Trenaman wrote.
How we got here
Peloso said that Wildflower Parents Advisory Council (PAC) members were assured earlier this year that the plans to accommodate three middle school classrooms were not only feasible but also fit within the district's budgetary constraints.
She said the concept of moving the REACH program to LVR to accommodate a third Wildflower MYP classroom was raised.
After that, SD8 administration then proposed at a Feb. 9 board of trustees meeting to move the entire Wildflower MYP (around 70 students) to Trafalgar.
Source: Wildflower PAC
At the April 6 meeting three options were put forward:
- status quo (no upgrades, no renovations, no reallocation of space, cap enrollment) for another year;
- status quo configuration, expand capacity; and
- move to Trafalgar Middle School.
A presentation by senior administration at the meeting was “biased for moving us to Trafalgar,” said Peloso.
“And we are not even clear on what they voted to do in the end … status quo but with another meeting, but what they are deciding at this meeting is unclear. And now we have still not heard what is next,” she said.
But all people who have participated in the process know SD8 staff have worked to try to find solutions that would create new classroom space at the Central building, Trenaman replied.
“But this is a practical issue, and in this sense district staff are simply the ‘messenger.’ And the clear message is that there are no spaces within the Central building to create new classrooms without major new investments,” she said.
Trenaman noted district staff’s recommendation was to pursue the option of Wildflower Middle Years grade 7 to 9 students attending a dedicated space in a separate wing of the Trafalgar building with its own entrance, with “excellent” classrooms.
“This option would also provide the advantage and flexibility of numerous additional educational options, electives and extra-curricular activities available to them,” she said. “And all students wanting to attend the program would be able to enroll.”
But how long Wildflower middle school would last as a separate program at Trafalgar and ultimately folded into the regular school system is a concern, Peloso warned.
“Once there it would be simpler to administer as one program rather than a separate entity,” she said. “We should not be forced together.
“Wildflower will likely dissolve if moved to Trafalgar.”
Wildflower does not want any part in comparing or judging different schools as “better,” only to want to keep a thriving, successful and diverse community together, Peloso added.
“And we have repeatedly asked senior administration to come and engage with us and see what we do, and no one does.”
District staff have worked hard to try to find space at Central building for new classrooms, countered Trenaman, including thoroughly investigating the ideas put forward by the Wildflower PAC.
“Some ideas for spaces were not viable given structural and systems limitations of the building,” she said. “All other proposed spaces to build new classrooms would require major capital investments.
“Wildflower is already short one classroom this year and lacking in auxiliary learning spaces like learning support areas. And with next year being the first year most of its Grade 9’s would return, additional pressure has been put on the school,” she added. “At least two, but ideally three new classrooms would be needed at to accommodate all students wanting to enroll at Wildflower School next year at the Central Building.”
SD8 trustee will have an opportunity to consider all options, including those received to date from parents, on the agenda at the open board meeting May 11.
What is needed:
- Approval of option two as presented at the April 6 board meeting (status quo configuration; expand capacity);
- Approval of funding for a reconfiguration and renovation of the stage space (which was previously approved) in order to create a new learning space. This includes upgraded bathrooms;
- Modest improvements to current space (lighting and sound proofing);
- Provide Wildflower with long-term certainty by amending the 2016 Facilities Plan resolution that states “grades 7-9 may relocate to Trafalgar”; and
- A commitment to programs of choice such as Wildflower School within the district (as stated in SD8 policy 411).
Peloso said in the SD8’s board policy manual the board must support programs of choice (Policy 411).
“The board policy says that schools of choice is the administrative direction they have chosen based on policy — so the just, fair and equitable board ruling should be based on administrative law — not supporting Wildflower goes against their own policy,” she said.
“Wildflower (parent’s advisory council) has come up with solutions in order to keep both the MYP and the REACH program in Central School, but we keep getting shut down by SD8 senior staff. It has become clear that their ultimate goal is to move the MYP to Trafalgar.”
“SD8 has undertaken an extremely transparent process, putting all options on the table in public, reviewing and discussing all options with all stakeholders and narrowing these options down to two practical choices: cap the enrolment of the Wildflower School at the Central building requiring the school to shrink its enrolment, or move the Wildflower Middle Years grades 7-9 students to a dedicated wing of Trafalgar, allowing all students who would like to enroll in the school to attend,” she wrote in an email interview.
Wildflower School is a thriving multi-age school from Kindergarten to Grade 9.
It is a program of choice within the public school system which focuses on innovative and social-emotional learning that has served the Nelson community for over 20 years.
Editor's Note: This story was updated to from an earlier version that first appeared on The Nelson Daily site April 20th.