Amid conversation about the state of local schools is the fact that for the first time in recent memory, enrolment is trending upward.
“Numbers are up for the first time in years and years (in the district as a whole),” says Bill Ford, School District 20 superintendent. “Of note this year is a significant increase in Kindergarten enrolment at Glenmerry, up from 45 students last year to 59 students this year.”
The elementary school has seen a steady increase since 2011 when 300 students were enrolled until this year (unofficial until end of day Friday) with 376 students.
In order to house the rising number, the district has six portables on site, five of which have classes in them. Two portables were installed in the summer of 2015 and have been fully used ever since.
However, a recent change in provincial guidelines for facility replacement prompted discussion during the district’s board meeting on Monday.
Trustees agreed that Glenmerry Elementary School is number one on the priority placement list in the district’s 20-year long range facility plan. Cost in today’s dollars is about $7 million.
Like many SD20 schools, Glenmerry is an older building which requires significant resources to maintain, Ford explained.
“That, coupled with a recent growth trend that we anticipate will continue, makes it a good candidate for replacement consideration.”
He emphasized this is very first step in the process and school replacement is likely many years away.
Granted a new Trail school won’t happen in the foreseeable future, board chair Teri Ferworn remains optimistic that she’ll see it one day.
“Glenmerry has been growing in enrolment over the past few years and we are hoping that we will qualify for replacement within the next few years,” she said. “We have submitted the request and will eagerly await the outcome, we believe that we could qualify. Of course, these requests take considerable time so we will keep our fingers crossed.”
Rossland Summit School (RSS) was another numbers-related topic on the board agenda. That facility was re-configured K-9 three years ago, currently 110 students in grades 10-12 living in the Rossland catchment are bused to J.L. Crowe Secondary School (JLC).
The district reports that since the re-configuration, transfer requests have been steady – 83 RSS students in grades 8-9 have requested a transfer to the Trail high school since 2013.
This prompted conversation about possibly changing RSS to K-7.
Notably, there will not be any change at this point.
“There was discussion regarding the RSS configuration,” says Ferworn. “Grade 9 students want to attend JLC due to social, academic and extra-curricular opportunities. As you can see, reconfiguring RSS comes with many complications, especially the impact on numbers at JLC, but also transportation concerns,” she added. “Mr. Ford was wanting us to be aware of the difficulties regarding this issue and I am sure we will be having further discussion in the future before we make any decisions regarding reconfiguration.”
Ford reiterated the board is currently leaving school configurations status quo.
“The district’s management team will be starting on a comprehensive long range Facilities Plan,” he explained. “With regard to RSS, the most significant issue with reconfiguring that school (for example to a K-7 school) is that the number of grade 8 and 9 students to be added to Crowe would put Crowe past their functional capacity in a few short years.”
In September, a total of 24 grades 10-12 RSS students became part of the JLC body, and nine others (grades 8/9) requested a transfer to Crowe.
Another board decision made this week was assent for a permanent Early French Immersion in Castlegar.
This came after a successful two-year pilot project, Ferworn added.
“I am truly hoping that families in the Trail area will begin to demand early language programs in their area so we can extend this enriching program.”