Visions for Small Schools: Planning for Rossland's Future
Rossland’s Visions for Small Schools Society is currently working hard on options to serve their mandate to sustain excellent K-12 education here in the Mountain Kingdom. This week the group has given permission for the Telegraph to publish a working draft of a document designed to outline goals, strategies, and action plans for the preservation and enhancement of education in Rossland. The group needs input and involvement from the community to change these goals into long-term realities.
Duff Sutherland, the Chair of University Arts and Sciences at Selkirk College, recently observed after a visit to RSS that “you have an excellent school and are doing really good work”. VSS is a vehicle Rosslanders can use to make certain RSS and Maclean are able to keep on doing that good work. Get involved.Post a comment or suggestion here. Go to a meeting. Email VSS if you need more information or want to get involved.–ed
In May of 2009, the VSS sent a document to the School Board that outlined four main goals. As time has passed, we realize that we must both refine and further embellish these goals in order to provide specific direction for our members, for members of the community and for the School Board. I have included the original goals below, for your perusal.
1. Sustain excellent K-12 education in Rossland
Rossland is a unique community that has long placed the highest value on K -12 education in our community. This is evidenced by the support and involvement of parents and community in the schools, by the education innovations taking place in RSS and Maclean (e.g. International program launched here, Academies, Strong Start etc.) and by the attendance at various public meetings over the years (e.g. the 1st Planning for the Future meeting held in Rossland attracted about 120 people). It is also demonstrated by the educational excellence at Maclean and RSS, which is rooted in the mutual involvement of parents, educators and community.
Our schools lie at the heart of our community and we are committed to maintaining an education system that keeps our kids in our town. Sustaining K -12 education in Rossland has been embedded in Rossland’s Official Community Plan, Strategic Sustainability Plan and led to the creation of the Visions for Small Schools Society.
We encourage SD20 to investigate all viable alternatives to meet the VSS overall goal of sustaining K -12 education in Rossland and excellent education throughout SD20.
2. Investigate, Plan and Implement the Neighborhoods of Learning Philosophy
Given the amount of community involvement in the schools already, the community use of facilities like the auditorium and gymnasiums and the interest in, and openness to, exploring a variety of creative options to sustain K -12 in Rossland, it would seem the Neighbourhoods of Learning concept could take root in such a nurturing environment.
SD20 should make a commitment of planning resources and time, working with partners and stakeholders to create a viable Neighbourhood of Learning plan.
Midtown Transition area and neighbouring lands planning as a part of the Neighbourhood of Learning opportunity. The City of Rossland has a draft development plan for the “Midtown Lands Transition area”, an area of land owned by the City adjacent to RSS.
Working closely with the City of Rossland, SD20 should explore and develop a comprehensive plan for the Midtown Lands and School district properties. This plan can incorporate the Neighbourhood of Learning ideas.
This comprehensive planning area would the encompass the areas that include Maclean Elementary, RSS, the Midtown Lands transition area and the City owned lands surrounding the arena.
3. Explore and implement cost sharing methods
SD20 should aggressively explore and capitalize on all cost sharing opportunities, in Rossland and throughout SD20, to offset operational costs. In Rossland some of these cost sharing methods may be part of the Neighborhoods of Learning Plan.
SINCE THAT SUBMISSION
Following this submission, many other interested individuals and small groups’ submitted letters to the Board which identified concerns about the schooling in Rossland, but which also posed some solutions. The Board then made 4 recommendations to the Ministry of Education, which included: renovating RSS to accommodate K9; renovating RSS to accommodate K12; build a new K-9 or build a new K12. In meeting with the VSS group, and after obtaining informal input from numerous community members, the majority of community members would like to see the current building undergo a green renovation, which would allow us to maintain and perhaps better utilize the assets of the auditorium, the gym and the cafeteria. On the other hand, no decisions have been made in terms of the buildings.
Neighbourhoods of Learning
As we proceed with our planning, we must integrate the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NoL) concept, which fits wonderfully well within the general philosophy of Rosslanders’ and would allow and encourage us to better partner with our community businesses, associations and of course with City Hall. The NoL encourages expects and in fact demands that formal institutions of learning partner with other community members to provide a common space for all members to learn, to spend time, to explore, to experience cultural riches and more, under one roof. While the concept is not completely defined, and of course is not formal, we must still work from a common definition. If we conceptualize curricula, however informal it may be, to include the ‘interaction that takes place between and among students, clients, practitioners and faculty with the intent that learning takes place’, we can easily see that learning is reciprocal, can occur between anyone and can take place virtually anywhere (as cited in Bevis & Watson, 1989). Hence, the NoL mandate encourages us to do what we have already been quietly doing in Rossland, and that is to build upon our assets at all levels. While the NoL may not directly affect enrollment, will make far better use of the physical spaces rand build community capacity that will enrich many and may encourage new families to settle in the area.
The ‘Planning for the Future ‘document expands upon one of the stated goals of the VSS, that is ‘to offer a broad spectrum of sustainable education programs to every student while ….experiencing declining enrollment’. Clearly, one of the key considerations is to maintain the ability to offer upper level courses so as to provide the necessary academic preparation for our graduating students. We believe this can be done, not only in a manner that would provide the courses, but also in a manner that maintains the excellence of education we have committed to in Rossland. The following plan is in no specific order and we welcome feedback/input from you.
Develop a Task Force with the City of Rossland and VSS with intents of establishing a short and long term plan for Rossland schools
- Councilor Spearn recommended members be made up of School Trustee Gord Smith, a member from VSS, Councilor Spearn, a staff person from Rossland Planning department and two parents. (they may also be active members of the VSS)
- Councilor Spearn also recommended that City Council set aside budget dollars for the planning process
Will forward this document to all VSS members and discuss committee configuration with the City and VSS in June 2009
Provide continued communication and lobbying to the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Community Development, SD 20 and community members
- Develop a letter that will be sent both by the VSS and the City to inform the Ministry’s of our current ideas and intentions.
Investigate, Plan and Implement the Neighborhoods of Learning Philosophy
- Rent non utilized classrooms to societies, small business etc for education/meeting purposes. The room would be equipped with appropriate technology such as a computer, data projector, screen, white board etc. This would be done during non school hours, ie evenings, weekends, summer. It would be easy to implement and require little financial output – could be done immediately.
- Pursue the utilization of the school auditorium for groups other than RSS, which could be used as cost recovery or income generating
- Within the auditorium, offer evening/ weekend Drama
- Explore feasibility of using the cafeteria, or the Foods Room to offer Foods Classes to the general public (egg. Eating on the Cheap, Seniors Cooking, Cooking for Kids, Italian, Chinese, specialty courses, 100 mile challenge cooking
- Rent out the cafeteria kitchen to local entrepreneurs so that they may have access to a commercial kitchen to prepare their wares.
- Explore potential of developing a rooftop garden at RSS that would involve local experts, the Food Security Group, and provide food for the RSS Chef’s Program as well as the Food Bank. This could involve not only senior students, but junior students as well and be incorporated into numerous courses. This could also be a vehicle for course offering to the community at large
- Midtown Transition area and neighbouring lands planning
- Investigate Blueberry School to ascertain if their program would be useful for our community.
Increase Enrollment in Rossland at all Grade levels
- Inform major employers of advantages to living in Rossland and highlight the successes of current and past students
- Ensure packages to potential new community members include current information about Rossland schools
- Continue to advertise the International Program, especially to Germany and Asian countries
- Advertise and disseminate information to other BC communities, as well as to Northport Wa as families may choose to make a move during these economic times
- Continue to market all Academies to local, provincial, national and International sources
Utilize community sources such as the Rossland Telegraph and the City of Rossland Newsletter
Structure curriculum so as to maximize learning while also utilizing community assets
- Investigate possibility of combining courses (esp. Grade 10-12) in subject areas such as Math/Physics
- Investigate possibility of having ‘joint appointments’ of teachers in subject areas with lower numbers. (e.g. Teacher might teach one day at Crowe the next at RSS) Rationale, safety and better use of teacher time.
- Investigate a teaching approach which combines use of face/face with technology
- Utilize current businesses and associations to provide practical application of knowledge for students (egg Working with Food Security Group could be part of Social Studies, Biology, Chemistry)
- Expand course timetabling options that have been utilized by the Academies to include the rest of the population with the intent that it will provide flexibility for all students and enhance learning outcomes
This is being piloted at RSS Other examples include: Community Gardens, Nutrition Committee at RSS, Mom and Me, Restaurants, Rossland Trail Society, Food Bank, )
Form better partnerships with the French school
- Keep key members of the Francophone school aware of issues and seek active involvement from them.
- Encourage Francophone school to partner with RSS (co exist with SD 20) under one roof.