Some elementary school students in Castlegar could find themselves attending high school next year.
The board of trustees of School District 20 (Kootenay-Columbia) is considering moving Grade 7 students from Twin Rivers, Kinnaird Elementary and Robson Community School next year to ease up on class crowding.
“Elementary schools in the north end of the district (Castlegar area) are either at or over capacity,” says a report from superintendent Bill Ford. “Enrolment projections indicate that this will continue to be the case into the future.”
The board is considering adding portable classrooms, or having the students attend Stanley Humphries Secondary School, starting next September.
The report details the squeeze the schools are going through.
Kinnaird Elementary is at 107 per cent of capacity now. It is expected to hit a peak capacity in 2021, when 405 students are projected to attend the school, which can seat 350. Twin Rivers is at 106 per cent capacity, with 489 student for the 461-seat school; and Robson Community School is expected to have 105 per cent of the number of students it’s supposed to have, hitting that number in 2023.
And the board says no easy solutions are in sight.
“Although the realities of having capacity challenges in our schools is of great importance to us, it needs to be said that the district is in competition with 59 other school districts for capital project dollars from the ministry,” the board report warns. “The district has limited funds at its disposal to address capital projects and relies on ministry funding.
“Extensions and new school builds costs millions of dollars.”
The board report outlines two main solutions to the overcrowding — adding portables to the existing schools, or transferring Grade 7 students to Stanley Humphries.
Both solutions come with issues.
Adding portables solves the capacity problem immediately and maintains the configuration of K-7 for local schools. However, the introduction of portables will take play space in the school yard, the report notes. It also says young children would see reduced supervision at the secondary school; and some of the Grade 7s would not likely be emotionally or physically prepared for high school life and culture.
The report sees “high parent anxiety” as another issue the school would have to deal with.
However, even with all the extra Grade 7 students, Stanley Humphries would still be well under-capacity over the next five years.
The board is now canvassing parents for their thoughts on the issue using an online survey.
Some parents and community members are also commenting on Facebook.
“I don’t think it’s the best idea to move the Grade 7s up,” said Tammy King on Castlegar News’ Facebook page. “They get exposed to stuff they normally wouldn’t. Even though we are in need for a new high school!”
“They really do outgrow elementary school in Grade 7, some even by the end of Grade 6,” countered Megan Claire. “As much as we make an argument for them not being ready for high school, they are, just due to natural 12 and 13 year-old-ness, exposing K-6 kids to behaviours that they are also not ready for.
“I think a bigger space could do them good, particularly if a unique elementary style break and teacher schedule could be incorporated somehow.”
The debate is likely to intensify. Parents are being asked to attend a community information meeting scheduled for Dec. 3 at Stanley Humphries Secondary School at 6:30 p.m.
The board says it will consider all feedback it receives via the survey and make a decision on how to address the immediate capacity challenges at its regular open board meeting on Dec. 16. The venue for that meeting is Kinnaird Elementary at 6 p.m.