District now recommending that RSS be turned into a K-12 school

Consolidating kindergarten to Grade 12 into Rossland Secondary School by September 2012 was one of several new facilities recommendations announced during the School District 20 (SD20) board of education meeting Monday night.

Consolidating kindergarten to Grade 12 into Rossland Secondary School by September 2012 was one of several new facilities recommendations announced during the School District 20 (SD20) board of education meeting Monday night.

With full-time kindergarten starting this September and an increase of per-student funding, SD20 is projected to have a shortfall of about $230,000 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Supt. Jean Borsa said after conversations with municipalities and parents earlier this year, the new recommendations will now spark another round of discussions with affected communities.

“The intent [is] that now with discussion with whatever municipalities or groups that are affected in here, the board will move forward in that direction to see if it’s possible … and work out the details and then make decisions after they have details,” she explained.

She added that trustees will also have to figure out how to proceed with voting on each recommendation.

“That’ll be a board decision — whether they vote one-by-one or wait and do a bunch or a few,” she said.

In May, Greg Belland, Chair of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCI), wrote a letter to Education Minister George Abbott, requesting the ministry “take into account the economic impact that school closures have on rural communities and to reconsider the current funding formula in rural areas of the province.”

Acknowledging the “financial challenges” behind proposals for yet more closures, Belland writes that another challenge facing rural areas of B.C. is “attracting new business investment.”

He writes, “the continued uncertainty around school closures within our region,” more than one in three since 2002, “only makes our efforts to grow and diversify our local economies more difficult.”

“School closures are impacting our ability to retain and attract professionals such as doctors, nurses, technicians and other skilled workers; occupations and services that are critical for the retention of existing residents and businesses.”

The LCI provides economic development services for Rossland, Trail, Warfield, Montrose, and Fruitvale.

Other recommendations put forward at Monday’s school board meeting include:

• reconfiguring Twin Rivers Elementary and Castlegar Primary into one campus;

• reviewing all district alternative programs by March 2012 before pursuing the disposal or repurposing of the online and/or Trail Middle School facilities;

• investigating enrolment challenges at Robson Community School with the goal of creating sustainable enrolment by March 2012;

• maintaining the current school board office until the status of the lease to own and the Fortis building ownership is determined in 2013;

• disposing of the Sunningdale facility as soon as ministry permission is obtained;

• pursuing partnerships and shared services “to streamline our school district operations”;

• creating a new operating format for the Blueberry Creek Community School facility by maintaining “hub programming” in the Castlegar area by January 2012.

If each point is adopted, the district estimates it will save at least $389,618 annually by September 2012.

/ Story by Kim Magi and Andrew Bennett