School District 20 trustees poised for final vote on Rossland schools’ fate

While SD20 is preparing to finalize school cutbacks and closures, local groups are still working to save Rossland's schools.

The plot thickens.

As School District 20 (SD20) prepares to nail shut the coffin on MacLean Elementary School in Rossland this Monday night and leave the Golden City with only kindergarten to Grade 9, there are forces at work behind the scenes to keep the full spectrum of grades in the city.

The City of Rossland is poised to act after the SD20 board of trustees delivers the final word on the bylaw to close Maclean and move 10 grades over to Rossland Secondary School (RSS).

As well, the community-based group Neighbourhood of Learning (NOL) committee is expected to bring forth a solution to the dilemma of keeping 13 levels of learning in Rossland.

The action begins in earnest Monday night at Trail Middle School (7 p.m.) as the SD20 board of trustees will give its final verdict on whether or not Maclean will close in the third and final reading of the bylaw.

The vote could see some surprises, said board chair Darrell Ganzert, including a return to the status quo of keeping both schools open.

“If the bylaw is defeated it would allow the status quo to continue,” Ganzert explained, adding he expected a few trustees to vote ‘No’ on the bylaw.

Rossland city council will be taking a wait-and-see attitude, said Mayor Greg Granstrom, as it huddles for a regular council meeting that same night (Feb. 25) at City Hall.

Granstrom said a deal with the school district will still be forthcoming from the city, but it will be offered up after the school board makes its final decision on third reading Monday night.

“We pretty well have to wait until they make a decision, but we are working on things. There is nothing (concrete) right now,” he said.

“We are waiting to get the final decision and then we will go from there.”

He said the issue will be addressed at the first regular Rossland city council meeting in March.

Further afield, the NOL committee is trying to find a solution for keeping kindergarten to Grade 12 in the city.

In an article submitted to the “Rossland News” on Feb. 21, NOL intimated it could push for a municipal school district, a re-drawing of the school boundary lines, independent school options and legal options.

NOL is also working with the city to shape a partnership with the school district so RSS could become a K-12 school this fall.

“This would probably entail some tax implications for Rosslanders, which will be laid out in the days to come,” wrote NOL spokesperson Aerin Guy.

If the bylaw vote passes Monday night and it means SD20 closes MacLean, the board would have to consult to bring any of the three grades removed back to Rossland if the city were to offer some money, and there was “a will on the board to do that,” said Ganzert.

“In the end, regardless of how it goes, it will be up to trustees to determine if it is sustainable, if it is the right thing to do for the community, and educationally. There would be a lot of discussion,” he said about bringing K-12 back to the city.

SD20 board of trustees’ removed any debate on the merit of keeping kindergarten to Grade 12 in the Golden City after defeating a motion Feb. 4 to move all grades to RSS.

But the City of Rossland had prepared a counter financial offer to the district for consideration to cover the monetary gap needed to keep five secondary school grades in the city.

In its Jan. 28 meeting, Rossland city council directed city staff to flesh out options for a deal with SD20 that would involve the city and its citizens helping cover the difference in costs to keep the grades.

The four options are for $300,000 to be paid annually for a period of three years, for $300,000 to be paid for one year, for $140,000 to be paid for a period of three years (in one lump sum or annually), and $140,000 for one year.

If agreed upon, the amount forthcoming to the district would be paid through city reserves—and then repaid to the reserves by borrowing over a decided period of time—through the alternative approval process or financed through the budget process.

There is a $1.75 million budget deficit facing the district over the next three years. In closing two district schools, including Rossland’s secondary school, SD20 would only save $625,000, according to SD20 administration calculations.

The board’s final decision dates on those motions will be completed by Feb. 28.