5 IDEAS IN 5 DAYS, MONDAY: How the City can support K-12 education in Rossland and increase revenue

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
November 12th, 2014

Here’s a personal tip: One way to look good, is to associate yourself with people that are doing great things. Another way of saying it is that it’s fun to be part of a winning team. When you see someone, or some people pursuing a noble initiative, that are forging great strides forward and makingthings happen in general, get on board, and help them along. For the more scientific out there, it takes less energy to accelerate a body already in motion, than to get an object at rest up to speed.

The Seven Summits Centre for Education is a beautiful example of the spirit of Rossland. Born out of adversity, with forces working against you, they persevered in remarkably short time to solve a major issue with a homegrown solution. The result is a very impressive, unique education model being pulled off successfully at small scale, created largely of their own accord. This is our body in motion, this is our easy win, these are the people we as a City want to get behind and associate ourselves with. Indeed following the analogies, it will take less energy, resources and support to help them continue accelerating forward, than to try and resurrect K-12 within an SD20 scenario. Perhaps in time we’ll get to a municipal school district and fully public k-12 education can return. Until then, let’s do what we can as a City to help Seven Summits continue their impressive growth forward.

How, can the City help? Isn’t education a provincial responsibility?

Yes, education is a provincial responsibility. I counter that simplistic rejection and offer that strong, quality, affordable, walkable K-12 education is not just school. Rather it’s probably the single biggest economic driver in Rossland. A school as an economic driver? This isn’t news to Rossland as the Visions for Small Schools group did an excellent job in their efforts to save our schools, and we heard this story a number of times. In a one run on sentence recap: Without school, families stop coming, and begin leaving, the businesses that serve them suffer, the programs those people volunteered suffer, the housing market declines as demand shrinks, taxes increase to offset the reduced property values/property taxes, services are cut to reduce tax cuts, the high cost low service model provides a disincentive to live in Rossland, people continue to move out…. Who can predict the exact outcome, let’s not go there. Let’s talk solutions.

Right now, the evidence of Seven Summits success is it’s bursting at the seams capacity. As I understand it, the most pressing need at the moment is additional space, and ideally some gym space to continue growing the enrolment. It would be ideal to rent space at the former Maclean Elementary, however SD20 did their best to make that not happen unfortunately. The same story is true for The Annex.

Thinking about space the City has available, the first that came to mind was the arena/curling rink. The Curling Club has a good sized lounge, as does the arena. Our arena is under used with available ice time, and Seven Summits needs space. What if (and I haven’t talked to Seven Summits about this yet to see if it meets their needs but plan to) the City offered up one or the other or both of those spaces to Seven Summits to use during school hours. No we don’t want kids learning in a bar, but that is a large space, particularly the Arena lounge. In exchange for Seven Summits doing improvements to the space to meet their needs increasing the value of the space/ property, the City could offer the space rent free for a period and move into a space for rent scenario to a long term client. There is excess capacity in those spaces currently, why not make better use of them, add a modest revenue stream to the facility, and help ease Seven Summits space issues at the same time. The other potential space is the Rotary Healthy building downtown which the City current has for sale. That may be a potential class room / learning space for an expanded school, renting the space to cover the cost of the building with a modest revenue stream on top. Better to have a long term revenue stream, while supporting the schools, than a one-time injection of a couple hundred thousand dollars, and a lost opportunity. Remind you of Cooke School’s story anyone?

Thinking about the arena space got me thinking further. The academy model is one that Rossland has done very well at both through RSS and now at Seven Summits. While it would take some planning, and research, the potential for a hockey academy might fit into their model well. We have the available rink time, which could have its own classroom/ learning space in an improved arena lounge, and Rossland is a pretty desirable place for parents to feel comfortable sending their kids off to a hockey academy school. We already have the model of doing it successfully with the ski, snowboard and dance academies. Replicating it with a new sport, might be a potential opportunity. Plus it would be pretty fun to once again have a local hockey team to support at the arena.

Those are just a few ideas. The key point is as I stated up front. We have a motivated group doing a great thing for our community, let’s get behind them by supporting them with our available resources, without attempting to replace the provincial responsibility for funding our schools.


Andrew Zwicker is a candidate for councillor in Rossland. All candidates are welcome to space in this paper to promote their ideas.

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