Neighbourhood of Learning weighs in on SD20 decision

The Neighbourhood of Learning committee offers its take on the recent school district decision on K-12 in Rossland.

The “facts” are flying fast and furious as SD20’s Facilities Planning process moves into the bylaw reading stage. The NOL Facebook page has been full of questions since Monday’s meeting in Trail, when SD20 took the K-12 at RSS option off the table, leaving only K-9 at RSS and K-7 at MacLean to be debated at next week’s meeting.

People want to know what to expect. They also want to know what to tell their kids, who are anxious and unsure of what happens next. And they want options, because the remaining ones are not satisfactory.

In an effort to dispel some myths and also to provide some hope, I want to outline the key issues facing the Rossland learning community at this time:

K-12 would fit in RSS. Overcrowding is a problem with the board’s two remaining options, not K-12.

NOL research acknowledged by SD20 shows that in the K-7 and K- 9 scenarios, overcrowding will happen within a short time, and will impact other South End schools as well.  RSS will be over maximum capacity by 2026, but the possibility exists to lease space back in MacLean from SD93 for primary grades later, when RSS gets too full. The ministry will move RSS up the priority list for a rebuild, if the building is overcrowded and it becomes eligible for a renovation.

The NOL committee has actively shared this information with the PAC representatives, DPAC, the school board, and the media. You can see the breakdown on our website.

Blended Learning is not portable.

Ganzert also said the relatively small amount of grade 10 to 12 students in Rossland should have the increased educational options offered at JL Crowe in Trail. Do they not have this now? Do they not have expanded course offerings and the ability to build their own timetable with the flexibility of the Blended Learning problem?

The assisted online learning happening at Crowe is not blended learning. Students who bring their own devices are not “doing” blended learning. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is — several of the board trustees appear to have a very limited understanding of the approach.

The model of blended learning that has been piloted and pioneered at RSS is not happening anywhere else in the district. The implementation of such a program requires wholescale change in pedagogy, educational philosophy, timetable structuring, and community support. When the board voted out K-12 at RSS, they effectively killed this innovative approach that is both the showcase of the district and the program of choice for many students in the area. Students now have the opportunity to attend Crowe if they want to, and if it works better for them.  That is the point of choice.

What was the point of the consultation process?

SD20 spent over $20,000 on their facilitation process, and held a now infamously well-attended meeting in the RSS gymnasium on January 15th. The community provided input beyond what the board could have expected — eloquent and well-reasoned solutions and questions that were only recently addressed on the SD20 website (with several “canned” answers that were applied to several questions).

The community spoke about their desire to keep K-12 in Rossland. Yet with only one trustee representing the Rossland on the board, we are vastly outnumbered by those who many feel have historically had a bias against the Rossland schools and are not making objective decisions.

We won’t know for sure what those trustees think though, because the K-12 option was eliminated in a meeting during which there was no debate or impetus for trustees to share their reasoning.

We are working on ways to keep K-12 in Rossland. We have options.

The City of Rossland has indicated through their resolution on January 28 that they are considering providing some financial support to SD20. City staff have expressed their wish for a meeting between themselves, SD20, the NOL committee, and the Ministry of Education. So far, SD20 has not been willing to slow their process in order for partnership options to be explored and to work out mutually acceptable solutions, as they are “committed to the timing” of their process.

Many people have asked about the possibility of an Independent school or municipally-run district, and these are options that our committee is investigating seriously. The processes are complicated, but the commitment remains steadfast to arrive at an alternative option for Rossland’s learners.

What to tell your kids.

Many of the youngest in our community have expressed anxiety and uncertainty about the situation, particularly when Monday’s news became public knowledge. The unfortunate element of surprise in the Board’s actions has not made it easy to explain to our children that their best interests are at heart. But our kids should know that the community will work tirelessly until all options with the district are exhausted. And then we will work even harder to create the educational environment that we want for our kids.

The second bylaw reading will happen on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the RSS gym. While the community will not be able to speak during the proceedings, they may ask questions pertaining to the agenda during the delegated time period. We encourage Rosslanders to come out and fill the gym to the rafters again, listen to what the trustees have to say, and ask them how the remaining configurations: K-7 at MacLean and K-9 at RSS – will support our learners. You have a voice. Anyone who would like to write a letter to the SD20 trustees following Monday’s elimination of the K-12 option can find their email addresses here.

For School District Chair Darrel Ganzert’s position on the issue, click here.

Aerin Guy is co-ordinator for the Neighbourhood of Learning Committee in Rossland.

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