VSS Formulating List of Options for K-12 in Rossland
With enrolment numbers at Rossland’s schools slowly but steadily declining, and expected to continue to decline in the coming few years, the Visions for Small Schools society, made up of a passionate group of parents and teachers, has been working hard on solutions to maintain a quality K-12 education in Rossland.
Twelve society members, along with recently-appointed Trustee Gordon Smith, met this past Tuesday night in the RSS library to continue their discussions and planning toward the overall objective of designing a high level recommendation and ideas document to be submitted to the School District before the end of March.
The evening began with a report on 27 identified K-12 schools around BC and some of the pros and cons of the K-12 system under one roof. It was discovered that the communities around BC that utilize the K-12 structure were generally small communities with populations under 1,100 people. Rossland, in comparison, is quite a large center. Among the benefits sited by these schools was the development of a family atmosphere around the schools, kids acting out less, little to no bullying from older kids to the younger students and students learning to work independently in split class environments. Cons of the K-12 schools involved higher workloads for teachers who would have to teach more classes to a wider range of abilities, more difficulties in scheduling timetables for courses. In some instances, for example students, have to take Social Studies 11 before Social Studies 10 because of scheduling difficulties.
Some solutions suggested or employed by other K-12 schools to deal with these issues involved moving to a four day school week for students and a five day work week for teachers with the fifth day providing the necessary prep work time.
In small school environments it can often be difficult to offer as wide a range of courses as larger schools. One option to potentially pursue further is the concept of online learning. While RSS currently employs some online learning courses it was noted that there were some efficiencies to gain in moving further in that direction such as the ability to offer more varied courses. Possible deficiencies with more online learning included students with different learning styles that may not work as well for some in the online environment, and the quality of some online courses.
Those attending Tuesday’s meeting agreed largely that the Neighbourhoods of Learning philosophy may be the best future for schooling in Rossland. The concept involves greater partnership and sharing of facilities between different community groups and creating a community center type approach. One option discussed was to utilize the RSS auditorium as more of a community asset, possibly renting it out to other theatre groups or events to share costs and potentially generate revenue for the school. This could also potentially involve the city or other entity taking ownership of the auditorium with the proviso that first right of use would go to the school and at no cost. Along similar lines the possibilities of merging the city’s library and RSS library into one facility if a new school were to be built to house K-12.
Among the recommendations discussed were:
1)Keeping excellent K-12 educational opportunities available in Rossland. Not necessarily in one building
2)Implementing the Neighbourhoods of Learning philosophies
3)Recommending that the school district enter into a formal planning process with the City of Rossland around the midtown transition area location
4)Look for ways to cost share with the school board
5)Evaluate best learning practices
6)Consider cost cutting measures that don’t affect the learning experience (possibilities including moving to a four day school week, selling the annex building, cutting the board office)
7)Growing the international and academies programs district-wide and encouraging revenue-generating programs
8)Involving local employers in an overall plan to promote and attract new residents to the area.