Castlegar Primary PAC president speaks out in advance of public forum about school closure

With the vote for the closure of Castlegar Primary coming in February, the PAC president talks to us about the upcoming public forum

Castlegar Primary School parents and students were out in force in May at a rally to save the school.

Castlegar Primary School parents and students were out in force in May at a rally to save the school.

School District #20 is holding the second of two public forum at Twin Rivers Elementary School gymnasium on Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the possible school closures of Castlegar Primary and Rossland Secondary. The first public forum takes place in Rossland on Tuesday.

“We’re just trying to rev up basically all Castlegar residents (for the forum),” said Leanne Osokin, Castlegar Primary School PAC president. “The current motions they have up for debate will potentially affect all schools in Castlegar.”

School trustees will vote on whether or not to close the schools starting in February at four separate meetings: Feb. 4, first reading, at a location to be determined; Feb. 12 Rossland and Feb. 13 Castlegar, second reading; and Feb. 25, Trail Middle School, third and final reading.

“They haven’t really let us know what format Thursday’s forum will take,” said Osokin. “They have hired an outside consultant to help them with this process. She has been hired to assist the board to make sure they are doing this process properly with public consultation and that type of thing. We think she’ll give a presentation at the beginning. And then, at past public meetings  they have then broken up into smaller, round-table discussions. I don’t know if it is going to take that structure. It hasn’t really been communicated to us.”

Osokin says that it doesn’t make any sense for the school board to shut down the school and move the kids into portables at Twin Rivers Elementary next door.

“The basic facts really don’t support them closing our school,” she said. “Castlegar Primary is currently at 94 per cent. That’s six per cent shy of being full. We have the highest number of kindergarten kids in the district of all the schools. We have two and a half kindergarten classes. I do not understand why our school is fingered yet again for closure. We don’t fit into Twin Rivers. There projections for school enrolment for the next 10-15 years is nothing but increasing. Yet, they want to close a perfectly good, viable school and put children into temporary shelters, which are basically what portables are: they’re temporary. It’s not planning for the future in our minds. It’s not making a viable education infrastructure plan for our town.”

Osokin questions the board’s ability to plan for the future with the possible closing of the school.

“What are they going to do? Continue to add more portables to Twin River’s playground?” she said. “There’s no planning for the future. I understand that there’s a deficit and that they have to find money. But this is short-sighted thinking.”

Osokin says the decision to close schools and move children shouldn’t just be about the money.

“We just want to make sure our voice is heard and that they’re making this decision in the best interest of Castlegar,” she said. “That they’re not just looking at money.”