Neighbourhoods of Learning recently sent a letter and fact sheet to the school district outlining the potential benefits that keeping K-12 education in Rossland would provide.
While there has been no announcement of revisiting the Planning for the Future process, which put Rossland Secondary School and MacLean Elementary School in the crosshairs the first time, the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL) committee wants to get a jump start on informing the new school trustees.
Jennifer Ellis, co-ordinator for NOL, helped put the fact sheet together. Ellis said the school district will be facing hard decisions with the announcement that they will be running a $1.2 million deficit for the year, something they will trying to balance.
Ellis said, however, closing RSS is not the answer.
“Experience in other districts has suggested that while you do save some money by closing schools it’s often not nearly as much as expected, because the students don’t go away,” Ellis said. “The students just have to be transferred to another facility and they still require staff and administration in the new facility. There are some minor cost savings in the operating costs of the building itself, but there’s also increases to the operating costs of wherever the students are transferred.”
She said closing a school is not going to make up that deficit.
The projected $1.2 million deficit comes due the funding formula change announced by the provincial government in December. The formula changes how the money is allocated between the school districts and the change isn’t beneficial to SD20.
Ellis said that since closing schools won’t save enough money, the school district will have to be creative and look at a wide variety of options.
Rather than closing RSS, Ellis and the NOL committee suggest that the cost of running RSS as a K-12 would be comparable to the cost of running MacLean as a K-7.
“Two of our main points are that by making RSS a K-12, they’ll probably save as much or potentially more money, then by just closing RSS,” she said. “There will be cost savings with not having MacLean open, put there could be money gained by potentially selling MacLean. So that’s our main point.”
Their other point is that MacLean is already crowded and to try to move the Grade 6s and 7s back from RSS would be a problem, because currently there are no classrooms available.
“If they were to go the portable route that would seriously reduce the area of a playground that is already one of the smallest in the district,” she said.
To illustrate that point to trustees, NOL will be inviting them to take a tour of both of Rossland’s school.
“We’re inviting them up for the tour, so they can come and have a look and see what they think of the facility,” she said. “We can present them with numbers, but we’ll have a greater impact if you can actually see for yourself. So we’re hoping to propose alternative solutions that will save money.”
NOL hopes these solutions can then be implemented at RSS and through the facilities plan. Ellis said the plan is based on many years of community consultation.
“They (The school district) developed a facilities plan that said that RSS should be reconfigured,” she said. “That was based on three years of work on the Planning for the Future Process, so let’s not reopen that.”
The fact sheet outlines some interesting information, stating that MacLean Elementary wouldn’t make a good K-7 school, since it is already at capacity this year.
NOL states that the option of making MacLean the only school in Rossland would not be consistent with SD20’s goal of maximizing the ability to educate the youngest students in their own communities.
Rossland Secondary School would provide a much better opportunity for students. The annual utility costs to run RSS in 2009 were well below those of Stanley Humphreys and below Crowe. RSS cost $132,968 to run in 2009, while Crowe cost $139,991 and Stanley Humphreys cost $179,133. The cost per student would fall dramatically as well if RSS were combined.
And though the cost per student Full Time Equivalent, the amount the government pays per student is higher at RSS than Stanley Humphreys or Crowe, when the cost of MacLean is combined the school’s per student cost drops to the levels of those schools.
NOL argues that the benefits of keeping RSS open far outweigh the benefits of closing it. If students in Grades 8-12 were bussing to Crowe, then there would be the added cost of buses and portables to house the extra students at Crowe. There is also the cost of keeping the closed facility maintained, which could cost an estimated $40,000 a year.
The letter and fact sheet will come up in the next SD20 meeting, Feb. 16.