Blueberry Creek provides net benefit to school district

This letter is written in response to Toni Druitti’s letter (‘Open Minds Needed,’ Jan. 13.)

This letter is written in response to Toni Druitti’s letter (‘Open Minds Needed,’ Jan. 13.)

Blueberry Creek Community School Council has been in existence since 1997. We provide quality educational, social, recreational and cultural activities to people of all ages for our surrounding communities. We are an award-winning agency that helps the school district meet the mandate of the B.C. Ministry of Education. The Ministry of Education, together with its partners, has three main goals:

• ensuring B.C.’s young children benefit from high-quality early learning experiences;

• extending the success of B.C.’s K–12 system by responding to the unique needs of all students;

• helping all learners improve their lives through life-long learning and literacy opportunities.

Blueberry meets these goals by offering a StrongStart Centre, preschool, daycare, after-school care, youth programs, seniors’ programs, as well as a number of community events. We also have an extensive children and adult lending library and a full range of summer camps. We have been designated a “Community Hub” by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, a title which recognizes that the school district shares space with a nonprofit organization and we house a number of early learning services under one roof.

We have also recently been recognized as a “Neighbourhood Learning Centre” by the Ministry of Education. Blueberry Creek (BBC) has always worked to keep pace with the changing needs of education and the ministry’s desire to utilize fully tax payer funded public spaces. It makes sense to take advantage of an underutilized government facility and partner with the school district to enhance student learning in a variety of ways.

Let’s dispel the myth that Blueberry costs the district money. Blueberry and Robson schools had forward thinking principals (Alexia Turner and Grant Lenarduzzi) who took advantage of the “community school” model and applied for and received funding and status through the Ministry of Education.

When Blueberry closed (for the second time) in 2002 we worked with the district to maintain our status. At that time the government provided “targeted funds” of $75,000 per community school. Soon after the funding was reconfigured, entitled “LINK” it became untargeted funds. However School District 20 (SD20) still receives this money with the intention that it provide community school programs. BBC signed an agreement with SD20 whereby we would pay the utilities in the portion of the building that we utilized as well as shared space which came to $22,000 annually.

Trustees from Trail, supportive of the community school model and our exemplary programs, wanted that for their communities too. The Board of Education agreed that both Robson and Blueberry Schools would give up 33 per cent of their funding so that Trail could have a “community school.” Trail Middle School became the site, CBAL was awarded the contract and literacy programs are now provided in the south end. However these funds originally came to the district because of Robson and Blueberry being designated community schools. This was the exchange for having BBC pay for our space in the building. Blueberry generates $75,000 annually and our cost to the district is less than $72,000; this includes the space in the building utilized by SD20.

Trustee Driutti also claims that we don’t get funding for the children that attend Blueberry. It is correct that we have no K-12 programs in our school. However Blueberry provides a number of programs for schools throughout the district. One to One Reading, a program to support at-risk readers happens in most elementary schools throughout the district. We also provide classroom enrichment like the Living History Project, Stream of Dreams, an after-school program and a wide variety of summer art, theatre, science and at-risk youth camps from Castlegar to Fruitvale.

These programs don’t cost the district a penny. In the past five years we have provided FREE summer camps to more than 1,000 children. We apply for the grants on behalf of the school district, provide all the staff, enrollment, supplies and complete final reports (signed by the superintendent of SD20) and don’t charge any administration fees. All money received by the various grants goes to support the children.

In the past five years the total for summer camp funding has been over $55,000. We offer an after-school leadership program at Twin Rivers School which has provided $105,000 in funding. The cheque goes to SD20; they choose to allow us to manage the program because we deliver quality programs in partnership with many community businesses and agencies.

In our last fiscal year our budget was $395,000. The school district provided us with $50,000, parent fees were $120,000 and the other $250,000 was raised through grant writing and fundraising. We more than pay our way.

If Blueberry School closes the school district will still have to provide heat, security and maintain the fields as per city bylaws. There will be costs involved. A vibrant educational centre well utilized by the community and school district will sit boarded up and vacant but what will be accomplished?

Blueberry Creek Community School lives by the adage that “children do well when families do well and families do well when they live in supportive communities.” When trustee Driutti was elected in 2006 she was supported by the community of Blueberry. In fact the majority of her votes were from Blueberry residents and without the community’s support, she would not have been elected. She was a huge supporter, always showering us with praise and attending community and school events.

Before the last election Blueberry amalgamated with the City of Castlegar. Electoral boundaries were realigned and Blueberry became part of the City of Castlegar. Trustee Driutti no longer represented Blueberry residents. It is extremely unfortunate that a person with an open mind would support Sunningdale, a closed school in Trail, with no students in the building and not support an open building nurturing more than 280 children who’s long term success has been improved through investment in their early years.

It would appear that trustee Driutti’s loyalty follows the vote.

Submitted by Bev George for the Blueberry Creek Community School Council