[Editor's note: The following is a letter sent last week to School District 20 by Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom. The mayor read part of this letter aloud at Thursday's meeting at RSS]
Rossland City Council thanks the School Board for their efforts in dealing with the school situation in such a challenging environment and appreciates your involvement of the community through a consultative process.
In reviewing the “Planning for the Future, Part 2” document, Council focused primarily on the proposal affecting the Lower Columbia communities (Beaver Valley, Trail, Warfield and Rossland).
Council believes the report should address the key issue: What does it take to retain the educational infrastructure within each community? Starting from this basic premise would allow the School Board and the communities to make decisions on how the existing funding should be allocated. To this end, we offer the following comments:
- The Lower Columbia Valley communities are sufficiently large enough to support the primary educational infrastructure that will keep the communities healthy and vibrant and ensure that they are able to retain and attract a viable population base. Council believes that this educational infrastructure is the foundation for success in these communities. The School Board is respectfully requested to plan and restructure the resources from this basic premise. This suggestion is echoed in the report, “Rural School District Consolidation” which states; “After school closure, out-migration, population decline and neighbourhood deterioration are in motion, and support for public education diminishes.” Council firmly believes that to maintain community resiliency, primary educational facilities must remain in each of the communities.
- Community schools enhance the socio-economic environment of the community by offering opportunities for young families to concentrate on building their support system close to home. Parents can be comfortable knowing the whereabouts of their young family members. It is paramount that the School Board and Council work co-operatively to ensure that this structure is strengthened and not diminished through the relocation of educational infrastructure and programs.
- Rossland, along with some of the other municipalities of the Lower Columbia, is a ‘full service’ municipality offering a wide range of services and amenities. Maintaining the community’s education system is essential to this ‘full service’ model and the viability of the socio-economic system in the community. Rossland can sustain a K-12 facility in combination with the International program, the unique Ski and Dance Academies and by enhancing online learning opportunities for students and adults.
As advocates for our community, Council offers the following specific suggestions as requested by the Chair of the School Board during the presentation at the Council meeting:
- Council supports creative strategies to keep K-12 in Rossland including consolidating all grades in to RSS, expanding online learning opportunities, expanding and promoting both academies, promoting the already successful International program and inviting the Francophone school to share facilities in Rossland.
- The School Board is encouraged to explore other opportunities such as a 4 day school week and utilizing MacLean School as a “Neighbourhood of Learning” site by providing a community centre. Seniors centre and Strong Start program within that facility as is encouraged by the Ministry of Education.
- Council appreciates that funding is a challenge to maintaining and operating regional infrastructure and educational programs. However, when viewed from the point of “life-cycle costing”, restructuring existing resources and infrastructure within the available poolof funds that includes the capital funding for new facilities, becomes a viable option to maintain the basic foundation of the educational infrastructure in each of the major communities in the Lower Columbia.
Council supports an educational system that was envisioned in the comments of Premier Campbell at the 2009 Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention:
“Here’s a question: How can we better utilize public spaces from schools or community centres or provincial buildings to meet public needs? Why not design neighbourhoods around a school that kids can walk to again? In the 1960s two-thirds of all kids walked to school. Today it’s 13 percent. Think about that. Just walking to school is all the physical exercise that they need in a single day; to walk to and from school.”
City Council re-affirms the belief that educating our children in their own community is the fundamental minimum requirement for communities within this district. All other aspects of School District operations and administration can be restructured as needed but the priority must remain with community-based education.
We would be happy to participate in a joint planning session, should one be organized. Thank you for considering Rossland Council’s input on this matter.