Middle School still considered for Grand Forks, not Christina Lake and West Boundary

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
October 9th, 2012

A middle school at Perley Elementary School of Grade 6 to 8 students is still being considered for Grand Forks students, but not for Christina Lake or West Boundary students at this time, School District 51 School Board trustees, told parents at two forums this week.

This decision comes after a series of community forums held in the spring where parents from Christina Lake and the West Boundary communities expressed concerns about the middle school idea. They don’t want to have their children bused into another community two years earlier than they are already and they feared for the future of their schools when loosing so many students. As promised, the school board held the fall forums to discuss finances and research about middle school successes.

“One message came through clear and strong and that was the feelings everyone has for their school, towards their teachers and their community,” said trustee Vicki Gee to the more than 30 parents who attended the East Boundary Forum held in Grand Forks at Perley Elementary School on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

“Our reasons for doing this consultation are the same (as last time),” continued Gee. “We’re looking at creating more advantages for students and focusing on more opportunities for students.”

What the board was originally proposing was a middle school of Grade 6 to 8 students from Grand Forks and Christina Lake at the current Perley Elementary campus due to its close proximity to Grand Forks Secondary School.  Hutton and Christina Lake Elementary schools would have Kindergarten to Grade 5 under the proposed model.

What the board is now proposing is a gradual implementation of the middle school, starting in September 2013. The transition year will include the Grade 5 to avoid unnecessary movement, said Jeanette Hanlon, school district secretary treasurer. The middle school would continue with the Grade 6 to 8 students in 2014/2015, but Christina Lake students wouldn’t attend until Grade 8.

The middle school idea is motivated by a financial and enrollment reality the district will face over the next three years. The declining enrollment, a reduction of $230,000 each year in their annual budget by the provincial government to wean school districts off of funding protection, upcoming administrative retirements and a need to staff schools efficiently are all motivators for the board.

According to Hanlon’s presentation, the first year of set up, which didn’t include renovation costs if there were to be any renovations, would cost the school district about $41,035. $30,000 of that would be for prep time at the high school. If the proposal moves forward, next year would see 338 students at GFSS, 189 at Perley as a middle school and 312 at Hutton in Kindergarten to Grade 4. The second year would see a savings of about $47,000, even with additional prep time because of a $80,000 savings due to the loss of one teacher.

Now teachers care off of job action, the board intends on consulting with teachers on what needs to be done to make the middle school work for our district.

“I know teachers probably have mixed feelings (about the middle school idea) depending on what community they work in,” said Norm Sabourin, Boundary Teachers’ Association president, during a private interview with The Boundary Sentinel.

He said while some teachers may be interested in teaching at the middle school, they all agree it should be done properly with improvements made to the building beforehand.

“I was shocked next September was a possibility because the last I heard, September 2013 was not an option,” said Sabourin of what was revealed at the Grand Forks meeting. “Why the rush?”

“I would hope it is not just about shuffling kids around.”

New superintendent to be hired this fall

Three retirements of key administrative positions will also reshape the school district.

Superintendent Michael Strukoff, director of instruction Maxine Ruzicka and Boundary Central Secondary School principal Louise Bayles will be retiring in 2013.

The board has hired a recruitment company out of Vancouver to help them find suitable candidates for the superintendent position, said Rezansoff.

They hope to have shortlist of candidates to interview by the end of November, with a formal hiring being made in early December. Although Strukoff doesn’t leave until the spring, the board would like the new superintendent to have some time to get to know the current administration and schools making for a smoother transition.

Christina Lake to be left alone, for now

While Christina Lake Elementary School is not included in the present middle school plan, that doesn’t  mean it can’t be in the future, said Rezansoff.

Online petition against a middle school on change.org

A group calling themselves the Concerned Parents Grand Forks started an online petition nine days ago against the middle school proposal on change.org.

Change.org is a website that aims to “build an international network of people empowered to fight for what’s right locally, nationally, and globally”. On the site, the Concerned Parents have launched a petition, which currently has 25 signatures against having a middle school in Grand Forks. It is unclear what they want to do with the petition, except that they ideally would like 100 signatures.

Among the signatures and comments are parents and grandparents from Grand Forks, Christina Lake and throughout Canada.

According to the petition, a middle school will take away the right of choice parents and students currently have in Grand Forks, will cause extra work for parents who have to drive children to two different schools, rather than one, and will cause timetable conflicts in picking those same children up after school. “Also, middle school tends to make children grow up faster. Bullying tends to peak at around Grade 6, and children will no longer have a choice of moving to a different school in this circumstance, they will either have to continue to endure the bullying, or be home-schooled.”

To view the petition go to https://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-proposed-middle-school-in-school-district-51-grand-forks-bc.

To view The Boundary Sentinel’s original story from the spring forums please visit, https://boundarysentinel.com/news/grand-forks-parents-have-mixed-feelings-proposed-middle-school-19232.

To view the school district presentation go to www.sd51.bc.ca .

Categories: EducationIssues