Rossland packs gym to save its schools

Tuesday night as School District 20 invited Rossland to lay bare its thoughts on the district’s facilities review.

It was a packed house at Rossland Secondary Tuesday night

Rossland cares about its schools, especially where K-12 is concerned. That was apparent Tuesday night as School District 20 invited parents, students and other residents to lay bare their thoughts on the district’s facilities review.

Residents, however, were not  pleased with the three options placed before them, since they all end with either Rossland Secondary School or MacLean Elementary being closed.

Option 1 would be to make RSS K-12 and close MacLean.

Option 2 is to make RSS K-9,  close MacLean and send RSS grade 10-12 students to J.L. Crowe Secondary in Trail.

Option 3 is to make MacLean K-7, close RSS and send RSS grades 8-12 students to Crowe.

Residents brought up the idea of innovation and ways to look at increasing the amount in the district, hoping to find a way to perhaps keep both schools open.

Superintendent Greg Luterbach painted a dire picture of the school board’s budget.

According to Luterbach’s figures, Option 1 would save SD20 $145,000, Option 2 would save $285,000 and Option 3 saves $455,000.

The public had some other suggestions for options, such as selling or leasing MacLean to L’école des Sept-sommets, who’s expressed serious interest and making RSS 4-12. SD20 could then work with the francophone school to house K-3 in that school.

There were well over 500 residents in attendance at the meeting.

The forum focused on table discussion, where each table discussed their top points for and against each option. Then 15 of the groups were chosen to share their views aloud, while the rest submitted their ideas in writing.

There was also a question/comment  period at the end.

Some of the points that were made highlighted the crowding that would result in all three scenarios.

Closing RSS would also eliminate the blended learning program in Rossland and be a huge setback to the Academies programs.

One suggestion was that the school district drop Rossland all together, and the city create a municipal school board.

At one point in the forum,  a resident asked that anyone who would consider dropping out of the district altogether if K-12 is lost stand up. This lead to about a third of the room standing. This played on the notion that SD20 hasn’t taken into account the loss of student enrolment. Each student brings in $9,100 to the district and so a loss of any students to home schooling or registration through SD8 could easily add up.

Board chair Darrel Ganzert said the district would discuss what the potential losses are if Rossland students are withdrawn, though it hadn’t yet entered into their discussions.

Others were concerned that the district only talked about cutting spending and not increasing revenue.

Kathy Wallace said that, as both a representative on city council and the regional district, she understands the constraints that the school district is under, but said it’s a chance for the district to step up. She said that her belief is that quality of education is about providing choice for all the students in the district, something that RSS does.

“What I’ve heard since I got here is a focus on numbers, a focus on meeting the budget, and I appreciate that, but this discussion has been ongoing in this community for far too long and it needs to come to an end,” Wallace said. “I think it’s time for the board to act as visionaries and be proactive and address this beyond just trying to meet an unrealistic budget. I think it’s time for the school board to talk to the Ministry of Education. “

Wallace said that the RSS building, in itself, provides amenities that would never be built again if the school is condemned.

“That auditorium will never be built again, we know that by today’s building standards, you’re not going to recreate that,” she said.

Wallace noted that there is an opportunity to partner with the Francophone school and also the City of Rossland.

During Monday’s meeting, Rossland council voted unanimously for city staff to open talks with SD20 on alternative ways that the city could fund the schools.

“As a city, we are prepared to act proactively, as our Neighbourhood of Learning has, to coming up with some solutions, be it financially, be it whatever may be with regards to the facility, but keep K-12 in Rossland,” said councillor Jill Spearn.

Ganzert said that in a recent conversation with Rossland mayor Greg Granstrom, he indicated that there was a “very narrow window of opportunity” and that “the school district is more than willing to meet .”

“I believe it is one of our highest priorities, we will be meeting in the next few days with the city representatives to come up with some sort of understanding of how we could work together. It’s not unknown in the province to have  partnerships,” he said. “If those talks are successful, the situation could change dramatically for the school board.”

The facilities review information can be found here.

Info on the Neighbourhood of Learning committee.

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