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Even with partnerships, facilities costs are too high

The Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning (NOL) committee outlined its proposal in a widely circulated media letter (printed on the opposing page) which contained several inaccuracies that we wish to address.

The Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning (NOL) committee outlined its proposal in a widely circulated media letter (printed on the opposing page) which contained several inaccuracies that we wish to address.

Several statements made in this letter are erroneous and give selective information regarding School District 51 (Boundary Grand Forks) and other districts.

Our school district has already established a partnership with the City of Trail and J. L. Crowe in the maintenance of the Willi Krause Fieldhouse.

The ministry announced the Neighbourhood of Learning Centres (NLC) process in early 2008 stating that all new building projects could apply for grants from the ministry to include NLC projects in newly constructed schools. Prior to the completion of Crowe, School District 20 applied for two projects. To our knowledge, the district has not received a response from the ministry.

Community connection grants, an initiative put forth a few years ago at UBCM, can be offered jointly to school districts and municipalities by board motion. One of the criteria now is planning for NLCs. A request from Rossland was supported by the district and approved by the ministry last year. Another grant approved was the application from Warfield village council to establish a daycare centre at Webster School. This facility is now in operation through a lease with the Sunshine Daycare Society to cover costs. Blueberry Creek Community School has several programs which are co-ordinated by a society. The district does not receive any funding for the students at this “school.” This building was closed as a school many years ago. There is currently a one-year lease agreement with the BCCS Society.

For a complete list of all programs and services available in the district, please refer to the SD20 website under “Community Programs.”

Creating a NLC is not a new concept. The idea of NLC was initiated by the ministry as a way for school districts to find ways of generating revenue to offset operating costs for closed schools and empty classrooms.

SD 20 is continuing to bring new concepts to empty school spaces. Some of these early childhood programs are made possible by the LINK Funding program which is distributed by the director of student support services. The district works with partnerships such as Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and FAIR Society in the delivery of these programs.

What we need are more dollars to implement the many suggested programs in the Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning committee’s proposal.

The Boundary school district has schools in Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Big White, Midway, Greenwood and Grand Forks. It has two senior schools, Midway and Grand Forks. Beaverdell, Big White, Greenwood and Rock Creek bus their senior students to Grand Forks, Midway, and Kelowna.

Many students are on the bus for 80 minutes daily, provided road conditions are good. The Beaverdell School has five students presently in the primary level. The board has told the community that when enrolment is five or less, closure would be considered again. Also, Boundary is on a four-day week. This has caused its own challenges as some parents will testify. Boundary district also receives additional rural funding.

The ministry informed all the school districts of its new mandate of the 21st century learning. Kootenay Columbia board of education chair Gordon Smith commented on this learning concept in the Trail Times’ Community Comment column last fall.

All district staff, principals and vice principals have been working on educational plans for all schools. Last year, the district budgeted several thousand dollars to make our schools wireless and to implement document cameras in all classrooms as part of the technology plan. This new direction has created student engagement in their learning. The district continues to maintain and update our educational plan to keep up with global learning.

Do we need to create a new Planning for the Future document to incorporate new directions in education? If the district wasn’t looking after educational plans and introducing new directions in education, then would a superintendent of schools, an assistant superintendent of schools, director of instruction, director of student support services, secretary-treasurer and director of operations (all earning $100,000 plus per year) be needed?

For the year 2010-2011, our district received a facilities grant from the ministry in the amount of $447,575. Over the next five years, the district will have to come up with $14 million to repair and bring up to code all schools and maintenance facilities. In 2011, almost $3 million will be required for these repairs.

For instance, Rossland Secondary needs asbestos removal and has substantial water problems. The costs for replacement of pipes and asbestos removal in that building are considerable. RSS also requires $3 million in repairs within the next five years and is presently operating at a loss of $700,000 annually.

Many schools require repair and maintenance. For example, Stanley Humphries High School in Castlegar requires almost $1 million in repairs this year with a total of $4 million worth of repairs required within the next five years. Should the board continue to delay and neglect repairs to all our schools over the wish list of the Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning committee?

The ministry requires school districts to submit an assessment on the condition of each facility and a five-year plan. This is part of the Planning for the Future 2 document. One of the main goals of the facilities review is to ensure schools are appropriately and cost-effectively maintained. Government and the school board share accountability to allocate resources in a cost-effective manner.

Our operational funding is still based on enrolment plus supplements for items like special education and to make up salary differences. While small amounts of money, as suggested by the Rossland Neighbourhood of Learning committee can help the process, it cannot replace the major funding source. In a region such as ours, enrolment has declined considerably over the years. The Planning for the Future 2 document gives a clear and unbiased picture of what is to come and how we can best prepare all our students and facilities for the future.

Toni Driutti, Lorraine Manning & Mark Wilson

School District 20 trustees