Thursday August 21, 2014

Rural schools get review reprieve


Two Good Spirit schools slated for a review considering grade discontinuance or closure have received a reprieve.

At a special board of education meeting January 21, trustees heard presentations by the Calder and Fort Livingstone (Pelly) school review committees.

The two schools had been identified for review based on criteria set out in the Education Act including enrolment figures, location, transportation considerations, grade configuration, staffing, operational costs, facility standards, program offerings, and extra-curricular activities.

Following the presentations, board members passed a motion to cancel the review of Calder School.

The initial review of Calder revealed the school division did not have the ability to meet the legislative requirement of ensuring it could transport at least 90 per cent of students within 75 minutes to another school, explained Dwayne Reeve, GSSD director of education.

The school still suffers from low enrollment, however, which, Reeve said, means the board will have to look at innovative ways of decreasing costs while still maintaining the facilities and quality learning programming. This will be done through consultation with the community, but not through a formal review process.

Reeve said the initial review also revealed local knowledge the division had not been aware of that Calder may see significant enrolment increases over the next five years.

With respect to Fort Livingstone School, the board originally passed a motion to continue to the next stages of the formal review process, but that decision was rendered moot by an administrative oversight. For the process to move forward, the provincial legislation requires public notification by October for the school year in which the review will proceed.

Reeve admitted he had missed that and at a special meeting of the school board executive the Livingstone review was put on hold.

Whether the potential exists to start again next school year is uncertain, Reeve said. While the transportation issues are not as great an obstacle for grade discontinuance or closure for Livingstone as for Calder, the school was only eight students short of the legislated threshold of 88 students this year. An enrolment increase next year could make the school ineligible for review.

Whatever happens in the future, board chair Bryan Cottenie said it will not be taken lightly.

“Discussions surrounding possible school closure are always extremely difficult,” he said. “As a board, we want to make sure we have listened and exhausted every avenue available to us to ensure quality education for students. Again, as I stated at the outset of this process, our number one interest is without a doubt making sure that the best future for students is the focus of this process.”



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