Ed Board returning to the public with middle school plans next week

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
September 27th, 2012

The School District 51 Board of Education will be presenting a report of their plans for re-designing the school district to include a middle school in the face of declining enrollement and reduced funding during two community forums next week.

The first District Re-Design Community Forum is set for the West Boundary region on Monday, Oct. 1 at Boundary Central School at 6:30 p.m. followed by the East Boundary meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Dr. D.A. Perley Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.

During the forums, School District 51 superintendent Micheal Strukoff will present the district’s findings from the four public consultations and online surveys held in the spring.

During the earlier meetings, the district asked for public input on turning Perley Elementary into a middle school for Grade 6 to 8 students by September 2013. Under this new model, John A. Hutton Elementary School and Christina Lake Elementary School would both have kindergarten to Grade 5 students while Grand Forks Secondary School would be for Grades 9 to 12.

This discussion began when the board examined the realities of what the next three years will look like for the district: declining enrollement, a reduction of $230,000 each year in their annual budget, upcoming retirements of key administrators and the need to staff schools efficiently.

“Our goal is to create good-sized classes with financial (responsibility) but to the benefit of student success,” said Strukoff, during the spring forum in Grand Forks.

“We don’t want this to be a top down decision making process,” said board chair, Teresa Rezansoff during the Grand Forks meeting in the spring. “It’s about protecting our schools and offering the best educational opportunities … We sincerely want to hear what you have to say and we want to include you.”

“It’s not if we don’t do this we’re sunk,” Rezansoff said. “This decision is based completely on educational merit …If we go on we will face increasing three way (grade) splits and increasing class sizes and less secondary school speciality teachers.”

A middle school proposal is also in the works for Midway.

During the spring consultations, the majority of Christina Lake parents who attended the meetings were not in support of the middle school concept because it would mean their children would be taking the long bus ride into Grand Forks two years earlier than they do now, and they felt it would give the district even more reasons to close their school, which currently has just over 100 students enrolled.

Grand Forks parents were both for and against the design. Many of their concerns included the possibly crowded conditions of Hutton should all the elementary students go there and the potential interactions between middle and high school students when the facilities are being shared between the two schools, Part of the argument supporting the middle school models is that the high school can keep more of their elective courses if both the middle school students and high school students are taking them.

Norm Sabourin, Boundary District Teachers’ Association president, said teachers are cautiously optimistic about the proposal. They feel that it will only work if it is done properly.

During a spring interview with the Boundary Sentinel, Sabourin said the bathrooms, gym and classrooms would have to be altered to accomodate the pre-teen population. And he fears the district will just continue to cut the funding in the the future, creating a less than ideal middle school situation.

New anti-bullying and literacy programs also being discussed

During the fall forums, administration changes will also be discussed, as will a few new programs coming to the district.

The Changing Readers program being headed by Hutton Elementary School principal Doug Lacey will focus on supporting early readers in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

The new provinical Erase Bullying campaign will also be discussed as will a brief review of the new graduation program re-design being done across the province.

Categories: EducationIssues