The city could re-mount another motion to the school district over its failed kindergarten-to-Grade 12 grant-in-aid attempt, says one City councillor.
Jill Spearn said City council could try and craft a more palatable motion to re-open the process and re-work the deal it offered the School District 20 board of trustees, one that was resoundingly turned down by the board last week.
Although the topic of the school district’s vote did not appear on Monday night’s City council regular meeting agenda, Spearn did not rule out the possibility of a future motion, but said it might not be feasible.
“The financial aspect is a constraint with the school board and I understand that, but I also think they should have at least had some conversations with us,” she said. “I think the likelihood now of anything going any further, to be honest, between the City and the school board is very unlikely.”
Most of the reasons for the board refusing to continue negotiations with the City revolved around the MacLean Elementary School Annex, said Spearn, and the technicalities regarding the request to potentially have that facility for the $430,000 total grant-in-aid over three years.
“But, really, that conversation needed to be about K-12 in Rossland with that as a side conversation,” she said.
However, Spearn said the energy from the fight to keep all 13 grades in Rossland will now be put elsewhere.
“I am not, frankly, prepared to let this one go by the way side on behalf of the 500 plus folks who showed up to support K-12 in Rossland, who wrote over 275 support letters, and a city that has an Official Community Plan, Sustainability Plan, a Family Friendly survey and a recent Neighbourhoods of Learning survey that all speak to keeping our kids in town,” she said during the meeting.
Two NOL subcommittees are working to find ways to retain K-12 in the city by creating an independent school for the senior grades.
“This means the board will lose the funding they anticipate and may rely on in their budget, and will not necessarily see the faces of all Rossland students in September and that kids can go to school here in town,” she said.
Also, an NOL task force is working to achieve a new governance model for Rossland as a municipal school district.
A deal between the City of Rossland and School District 20 was quashed April 15 as the board of trustees voted against accepting the City’s offer.
The resolution to provide a grant-in-aid to SD20—through a rise in local city taxes—in order to keep kindergarten to Grade 12 grades at Rossland Secondary School (RSS) was defeated 7-2 by trustees at the regular board meeting at Trail Middle School.
The deal from the City was riddled with nine procedural points that could not be remedied, and timing was at the crux of it. The board did not feel comfortable relying on the citizens of Rossland in a referendum—an answer which wouldn’t be available for 90 days—if it accepted the deal.
Mid-May was the latest the board could contemplate any City support, while referendum results would not be available until mid July. With the school district’s budget nearing completion—and many contractual obligations set in place during that process—a mid summer answer after the budget was set could have cost the district too much in union salaries.
On Feb. 27 the board of trustees for SD20 adopted a bylaw to close MacLean Elementary School next year, and Rossland Secondary School will begin hosting kindergarten to Grade 9 in September.
That means the city will be losing three grades of secondary schooling, with grades 10-12 heading down the mountain next year to Trail’s J. L Crowe Secondary School.
Although the closure of MacLean—as well as the amalgamation of Twin Rivers and Castlegar elementary schools in Castlegar—could save the district nearly half of its $750,000 budgetary shortfall this year, the savings could be less if Rossland parents elect not to send their children down the hill and go elsewhere.
Dissecting the decision
Spearn refuted Trail trustee Mark Wilson’s comments about how the Rossland students would provide greater enrolment to J.L Crowe Secodnary School in Trail, and would ensure the funding would be there for enhanced courses and programs.
“Mark Wilson keeps referring to the educational benefits of all the (grade) 10-12s at Crowe,” said Spearn at the end of the meeting.
“What he fails to understand is that education is not just ‘bums in seats’ in a traditional classroom. Education is 21st Century personal learning models as mandated by the provincial government’s Education Plan, education is students wanting to be in an environment where they can walk to school, where they can play sports for their home community, where they can go downtown and support the local businesses, where they have time to dance and work after school if they need to follow their passions, where they are comfortable with being different, if the climate allows them to be so. “Education is ski academies and international programs in Rossland, so we can all benefit from these interactions with the international community.
“I am not convinced this is the best educational situation for kids, but I am convinced that this is about a board of trustees, entrusted with the best for all kids, that has chosen to close the last remaining elementary school and highjack the senior students from a small, vibrant city which has had a 8.5 per cent population growth, so they can fill the gaps in Trail, that has seen declining population.”
Gaining regional sentiment
Two resolutions from the City of Rossland were passed at the recent Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments convention near Invermere last week regarding issues with school funding.
One asks for creative solutions to maintain local schools, the other asks for a task force to review the funding formula for rural districts.
City of Rossland Resolution 9
- That the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) strongly request the government of B.C. to continue its commitment to build strong communities throughout the province by adequately funding education and schools to promote the stability and sustainability of communities throughout the province.
If additional funding is unavailable the Ministry of Education should assist municipalities or other local interest groups to develop creative solutions to keep schools open and to provide top quality education to students, where they live, throughout British Columbia.
City of Rossland Resolution 10
- That UBCM strongly support the formation a joint a task force consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Education and B.C. School Trustees Association to undertake a comprehensive performance audit, review and possible revision of the funding formula for education in rural areas so as to insure the fair funding, equal access and high quality of public education throughout the province.