Time Running Out To Have Your Say On Our Schools

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
March 11th, 2009

The battle for RSS’s future is heating up. The final deadline for public submissions on the future of Rossland’s schools is nearing even as the City of Trail has written a letter advocating the closure of RSS and the bussing of Rossland students down to the new J.L. Crowe. “The dedication of resources required to maintain the Rossland Secondary School, with small class sizes and high operating costs, detracts from the resources available to serve the needs of all other students in the District,” says a letter signed by Mayor Dieter Bogs of Trail. “We would therefore ask the Board to seriously rethink…amalgamating secondary education in the District’s South end.”

With the possibility of more school closings, renovations, realignments or new schools being built to better suit the future needs of the students in our city, Rossland is now at a critical juncture in its history. “Now is the time for people to make their views and thoughts on the subject known,” says School District 20 Superintendant Jean Borsa.

School District 20, along with most other school districts in British Columbia, is facing a number of challenges, currently and in the coming years, particularly around declining enrolment, shifting demographics, funding formula changes, labour market shortages, expanded mandates and contract salary raises. These issues spurred on last spring’s request from the Board of Education for information from the superintendent on the projected usage of schools facilities’ capacity, projected enrolment decline, and associated budget constraints over the next five years.

In an effort to be pro-active and ahead of any potential action by the Ministry of Education, in May 2008, Borsa completed and circulated the Planning For the Future document.

Following the release of that document, numerous consultation presentations and Q&A sessions were held. The ultimate goal of the document was to solicit input, ideas and suggestions on the information provided that could then be collated, have costs and/or savings attached to the various potential ideas to form a report which could be then looked at to aid the decision making process.

Somewhat disappointed by the lack of response and input submissions on the document with only 16 public submissions sent in, the School Board has extended the deadline in an effort to make sure the communities involved have had a chance to share their thoughts.

“The current status is that we were getting so little feedback that the district wrote letters to each of the municipalities and other groups reminding them that we were waiting for some. The deadline was extended and we’ll be taking feedback right into March,” explained Borsa. “Right now we are collating all of the feedback and suggestions that are coming in and we are attaching to them costs or savings or both and putting the best approximate dollar figure that we can attach to some of these.”

While some items which the School District has say over are being costed out now, most will have to wait for a full cost analysis based on which items the Ministry of Education says it would or not potentially support upon submission of the report.

“Some of the suggestions we need to get confirmation around are cost and support from the Ministry of Education. For example, if we’re looking at renovating or building a new school we can’t just say, ‘here’s what we’re doing’ without checking with the Ministry that, yes, they will support it or not, because then we’re just wasting our time,” said Borsa.

Spurred on by some recent action by the City of Rossland and other RSS supporters, the City of Trail’s official submission, signed by Mayor Dieter Boggs, outlines the thoughts/suggestions of Trail Council on the future of schooling in SD20. The letter supports the closing of RSS and amalgamating the school into the new J.L. Crowe building. “The underutilization and high operating costs of the Rossland schools continue to be very concerning to (Trail) Council and we feel the continuation of the status quo hampers the Board’s ability to ensure equitable education delivery across the District.”

As evidenced by the 16 public submissions to the School District which are available for viewing on their website. So far, Rosslanders seem to be voicing their opinions more than other communities in the district; 9 of the 16 submissions so far have come from the Mountain Kingdom.

The extended deadline for public submissions has been extended to the end of March for those that wish to have their say on the issue. The collated project information report listing some of the possible options and asking the ministry to let the district know which potential options they would support will then be sent off to the Ministry early in April.

“That’s all being put together now. We then need to wait for the ministry to get back to us,” noted Borsa. “We can’t give them a timeline, we can only submit a request. That’s why we’re submitting it now, really quickly. We’re not submitting anything like, ‘here are the five options’. We’re saying “Here are a variety of options. Which ones would the Ministry support?” Once they say we can support this or that, then we’ll know where we can put our energy.”

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