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SD8 looking at ‘de-amalgamation’ to make break with Creston-area schools

The investigation of the creation of a new school district for the Creston region — now part of SD8 — has been proposed by a current SD8 trustee and the superintendent of schools, Trish Smillie, is now investigating the possibility.

The Creston scholastic region is looking to employ social distancing with the rest of School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake).

The investigation of the creation of a new school district for the Creston region — now part of SD8 — has been proposed by a current SD8 trustee and the superintendent of schools, Trish Smillie, is now investigating the possibility.

The boundaries of the new district would be the catchment area for Creston Valley Secondary School, including Adam Robertson Elementary School (Creston), Canyon-Lister Elementary School and Erickson Elementary School, along with the Creston enrolment in Wildflower School and Elev8 Homelinks School.

However, Smillie must undertake — through the Ministry of Education — the possibility for de- amalgamation and evaluate the impact of de-amalgamation on district education, operations and finance.

Currently, there are around 5,000 students (approximately 4,800 full-time equivalent) across the district with a total annual budget of $75 million. But costs of de-amalgamation run deeper than merely splitting the budget, Smillie found in her initial report.

“Forming a new district would be costly to the taxpayer and the information indicates that a new district would be unlikely to provide a similarly specialized level of service as the current School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake), despite the additional funding/cost to the Ministry of Education,” she wrote in her report to the board of trustees. “Prior to any formal consultation on this subject, a deeper analysis would need to be undertaken.”

Staffing impacts

There would need to be a significant amount of staff hired in the new district in order to continue to offer the same educational services as SD8.

The new district would have to hire a district inclusion support teacher, a vision teacher, a deaf and hard of hearing teacher, a speech language teacher and assistant, an occupational therapist and physical therapist.

“These non-enrolling teachers are in addition to the teacher counsellors, unique needs teachers, teacher librarians, ELL teachers, etc. as are required by the collective agreement,” Smillie wrote.

As well, a new district principal of aboriginal educational would need to be hired in the proposed district.

Smillie found that all of the senior management now at SD8 would have to be duplicated for Creston, with a new superintendent, secretary-treasurer, director(s) of instruction and district principals, directors of human resources, operations and technology, as well as various management positions would need to be duplicated.

Additionally, between the two districts, School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) and the new Creston District, additional staffing of human resources, operations, finance and technology would be required to overall maintain similar levels of service.

Other positions would need to be duplicated, Smillie said.

“This includes numerous non-enrolling teachers, exempt staff and support staff throughout the organization,” she wrote. “At the same time, with a smaller staff in the new Creston District, there would be more duties delegated to each position, and less specific expertise and focus within the job descriptions for these positions.”

And then there were 16

An order of cabinet under the School Act 26 years ago created 16 school districts out of 34 in the province, including SD8.

The Kootenay Lake district was large — surrounding the entirety of Kootenay Lake — and was made from SD86 (Creston-Kaslo) and SD7 (Nelson).

The new district served Crawford Bay, Creston, Kaslo, Meadow Creek, Nelson, Salmo, Slocan, South Slocan, Winlaw, Wynndel, Yahk and the surrounding rural areas, within a geographic area consisting of two time zones.

At the time the reason for amalgamation was a “pressing need to more efficiently manage the public education system, especially in light of federal offloading in education and health care.”

It was believed that cutting the cost of government would provide savings on education, meaning more money could be spent on students — and saving school services.

“School District No. (Kootenay Lake) currently has a range of quasi-urban schools to rural-remote schools, and a variety of school configurations to best deliver innovative and excellent educational services to its students,” said Smillie in her report to the board of trustees.

The new district would remove around 1,225 (24.5 per cent of FTE students) out of the 4,800 full-time equivalent students enrolled in SD8.

If it was created, the Creston district would be considered the 10th smallest district in the province, relegating it to the Ministry of Education’s “Extra Small Rural” category.

Following the money

The funding formula will likely be the greatest aspect of SD8 affected by de-amalgamation.

Money that comes from the province is enrolment-based and is distributed proportionally to each school district in the province based on its number of full-time equivalent students, noted Smillie.

“This includes most operating block funding, including pay equity, etc., so for most of the operating block there would be proportionally the same funding provided to the new Creston district as there is currently to School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake), and therefore no material impact on funding/cost to the Ministry of Education,” she wrote in her report.

Better building

Schools within the proposed district would have an average facilities condition index (FCI) of 0.44, well above the SD8 average condition of .40 and the provincial average of .39.

That means the proposed district would receive less capital funding than SD8 initially.

“Both minor and major projects capital funding is allocated based on factors mainly to do with providing sufficient school classroom capacity and quality learning environments across the province,” Smillie wrote in her report.