Re: You do the math,

Local resident adds points to conversation on proposed school closure

Thank-you for the math breakdown in this letter.  I was one of the hundredss who attended the public forum on the Castlegar Primary school closure last Thursday evening. I had to leave before I could give my input. My sincere respect to all those at the district level struggling with funding shortfalls and shame on the provincial government for shortchanging our children.

The idea that we are spending time and money on whether or not to close a much-needed school is testament to this.   In Castlegar, a primary school chock-full of students is on the brink of closure. The solutions presented involve multiple portable classrooms around the schoolyards of our other elementary schools. We already have parents pulling their children from public school and home schooling if they can as classrooms are crowded and  teachers struggling with this and the loss of much needed classroom support people.

What will happen when we have children and their teachers in more isolated portables instead of classrooms? How will kids fair when there is less outdoor space as portables huddle around crowded schools blocking sight lines and space to be active?

We know we need the space and yet we can’t afford to keep it open. What will happen when the government rolls out the junior kindergarten program as many other provinces have? What will visitors and potential residents think when our schoolyards begin to resemble crowded shantytown conditions? Most importantly, how is it that we are planning for portables and closing a school?

Some students in Thrums and Pass Creek (who have already lost their community schools) just may choose the Distinct 8 schools, many already are. Others may opt for home schooling if they are able; District 8 has an excellent home school program. Some may apply for the popular Wildflower program in District 8 if parents are able to get them there. Our elementary schools are very full, and birth rates have been up for the past five years. We have the Old School Café, and the online learning centre downtown, these are excellent programs but these students can be served by SD 8 DESK program.

Families are moving into Castlegar for the quality of life. Despite this, much needed revenue may decline as families opt for other options rather than portable classrooms. Closing Castlegar Primary may be a self fulfilling prophecy as schools are funded on a per student basis. Closing CP will save about $170, 000 each year. I know I would explore SD 8 options as a Pass Creek parent if SD 20 puts up the four to eight portables they project will be needed if Castlegar Primary is closed. Each child who opts for a different schooling option due to school closures is a loss of $9,000 to the district.

Revenue generation is possible; indeed we are talking about something in the order of $500,000 to keep CP open and 1.75 million district wide to keep two schools open. The SD 8 homeschool program (Homelinks), the Wildflower program, and DESK programs are always full. These pull students from the population able or needing to opt out of our struggling public schools; SD 20 could generate revenue in the same manner. What about opening space for an infant toddler child care facility, much needed in our downtown? What other ways can we generate the relatively small amount of revenue needed?

 

Our communities need schools; What can we do to keep our community and kids strong? This matters, please raise your voices.

 

-Claire Ouellette,

Castlegar