School board postpones decision on middle school
The Boundary School District 51 Board of Education voted unanimously to postponing their decision and the possible implementation of the middle school at Perley Elementary School during their regular board meeting, Tuesday, November 6.
They will be making the decision to start a middle school in Grand Forks at their regular February 2013 board meeting but won’t implement the changes any earlier than September 2014, so they’ll have more planning time.
Due to declining enrollment numbers, a desire to maintain programs at Grand Forks Secondary School and the planned reduction in funding protection by the provincial government over the next three years, the board has had to examine efficient ways of delivering public education.
The board has proposed a middle school at Perley Elementary School for Grade 6 to 8 students with Kindergarten to Grade 5 at Hutton Elementary School and Grade 9 to 12 at Grand Forks Secondary School. At this time Christina Lake Elementary School will be left out of the plans.
Teresa Rezansoff, board chair, said she wasn’t feeling a big rush from the public to get a middle school going at any of the forums the board hosted first in the spring and then the follow up last month.
“We’re not ready to begin the transition,” said trustee Cathy Riddle at the board meeting. “We need to take our time, and that’s fine.”
Boundary District Teachers’ Association president Norm Sabourin urged the board at the start of the meeting to take more time.
“If this is going to happen don’t rush it,” said Sabourin, who has been actively researching middle schools across the province and talking to teachers who work in that system.
“I really believe that this board wants to do it,” said Sabourin. “If it is going to happen, do it for all the right reasons and in the right ways. Really consider slowing down.”
“I’m shocked,” said Sabourin, after the meeting. “I was under the impression that they wouldn’t slow down. I am pleased that they will take the time to slow down.”
Teachers still weighing in on the middle school
The next step in the information gathering process is a two-day trip to an Aldergrove Middle School scheduled November 22-23.
Teachers have been invited to apply to participate in the trip alongside administration and trustees to ask questions and see how a middle school, similar to the one proposed for Perley, will look when in operation. After the tour, participating teachers will make informal presentations to their colleagues about what they saw and then all teachers will be asked to fill out a survey, either online or anonymously via mail.
“The comment that I heard was the district is putting an awful lot of money into a two day trip for a very quick three hour meeting. What are they going to get done in a three hour observation?” Sabourin asked the board. “There’s concern about the quality of a three hour visit about such a big potential issue.”
He went on to say the teachers not only want to know what the middle school will look like but what the new elementary model will look like. Right now the Grade 6 and Grade 7 students play an important role in their schools. Without them, the culture of the elementary school will be different.
Trustee David Reid said he’s been disappointed in the teacher turnout at middle school information sessions this year and specifically in there only being seven teachers in this district who have applied take the Aldergrove trip so far. The deadline for application is Monday, November 12.
“I question how much weight we’ll be placing on (the opinions) of seven people,” he said during the board meeting, adding if changes were happening at his work, he’d want to be informed.
Teachers have only just started providing their input on the middle school question because of the job action last school year.
During the February board meeting, trustees will take all the information they’ve been gathering over the past year from research, public and employee input and then weigh in on the decision.