Strength in numbers — Winlaw supporters send message to Kootenay Lake School Board
The Kootenay Lake School Board received the cold-shoulder treatment during its meeting Tuesday at W.E. Graham School in Slocan as more than 350 parents, students and Valley residents attended to voice their displeasure over the potential decision to close Winlaw Elementary School.
Winlaw was included in the recent Kootenay Lake School District 8 facilities draft plan as schools considered for potential closure as Board members wrestle with finding enough dollars to operate schools in the district.
“I’m very positive we got our message across to the board . . . but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Lori Thompson, member at large with the Winlaw PAC, told The Nelson Daily Wednesday.
“We have to provide (board) with more details. We have to show them how Winlaw (Elementary) is unique compared to other school closures their considering and should not be closed.”
During its May 3rd meeting, Trustees voted to consider Winlaw Elementary as one of the facilities deemed okay to close.
Creston Education Centre, Salmo Elementary School, Trafalgar Middle School in Nelson and Jewett Elementary School in Meadow Creek were others on the chopping block.
The first major closure by the Board has been earmarked for upcoming school year with Yahk Elementary School slated to be shutdown for 2016-2017.
However, the Winlaw contingent believes its school should not be part of the closures.
More than 30 placards lined the highway between Winlaw and Slocan, to send a message to the Board as members drove up to their regular monthly meeting.
During the meeting Kootenay Lake School Board Chairperson Lenora Trenamen had a difficult time keeping track, as speaker after speaker spoke about how essential the school is to the fabric of the community.
“(Board) will say the reason for closing Winlaw is due to a school with space nearby (at W.E. Graham) but that argument doesn’t seem logical because if we move the entire population of Winlaw up there it will still only come to 61 percent utilization which could put (W.E. Graham) at risk of closure in the future,” Thompson explained.
Thompson added a lot of the parents with children enrolled in Winlaw have said they will not have send their kids to Slocan for school, instead opting for home schooling or Brent Kennedy Elementary near the South Slocan junction.
Former School Board Penny Tees spoke at the meeting about how unprecedented it was for a Board to consider closing a school that is achieving its objective.
“In my 18 years on the Board, I’ve never heard of such a discussion ever taking place,” Tees told the Board.
One parent compared possible closure of the school to cutting off a healthy limb.
“Why would you even think about it?”
A petition signed by more than 600 residents demanding the decision to close Winlaw Elementary be reverse, was also presented to the Board.
Winlaw Elementary is located in the heart of the Slocan Valley, is 20 kilometers south of Slocan and 50 kilometers from Nelson.
The school population is approximately 90 students with five teachers and one principal.
Thompson said the school boasts one of the highest parent volunteer ratios in the district.
The Trustees will be holding a public meeting at Winlaw School on June 13th to further listen to public feedback on the consideration of closure.
Anyone wanting to send comments to the Board can do so by emailing Winlaw.email@example.com
“We will be regrouping and looking at specific arguments to keep Winlaw open,” Thompson said when asked about the next move by parents.
“We have a working group of about 16 parent and community people and will be working on a presentation for the next meeting in June.”