School district rejects Rossland’s K-12 offer

Latest proposal to save K-12 in Rossland "isn’t even an option.”

With the cloud of a budget deficit looming above its head, School District 20 (SD20) reiterated to a group of impassioned parents, that it is time to move forward.

At the regular meeting of SD20 on Monday in Trail, Aerin Guy, coordinator for Neighbourhoods of Learning, was delegated to open the meeting with her presentation to the board, which included the benefits of blended learning at Rossland Secondary School (RSS); the lack of courses offered at Crowe; and the need for a portable to house students.

Trustee Toni Driutti countered Guy, with concerns about the information presented, in particular, Guy’s statement regarding Calculus 12, music and the academies, not being offered at Crowe.

“In September these course will be available at Crowe,” said Driutti.

“I don’t want misinformation out there, and the people of Rossland need to know that these courses will be available in the fall. And that a portable will not be required as of September.”

Later in the meeting, the board addressed a proposal by the City of Rossland to the school district.

On April 8, the Rossland council passed a resolution to offer a grant-in-aid of $140,000 per year for three years to the school district with the condition that K-12 remains in Rossland for the school years of 2013-2018.

The city resolved the right to purchase the MacLean School Annex from the school district by 2018; and that the grant-in-aid be considered full payment for the Annex.

Lastly, council resolved that if that offer was accepted by district, then a referendum would be held prior to the dispersal of the funds.

The proposal was rejected by the board stating that it could not accept the offer as written, and Greg Luterbach, superintendent, shared nine points of challenge to the offer.

One of the most significant is that the Ministry of Education would need clarification if the grant-in-aid can be used for operating funds because it is tied to the transfer of a capital asset (Annex).

“We need operational funds,” said Luterbach. “Funds from the sale of city capital can only be used for further construction and not for operating programs.”

Trustee Gordon Smith requested an amendment to provide opportunity for further negotiations between the board and Rossland council, which was also defeated.

“It’s been over six years now that we have been debating if K-12 should be up there,” said Driutti.

K-9 is what was decided on, and we need to move on.”

Trustee Kim Mandoli expressed her reservations about the proposal.

“With all these tie-ins and situations, based on legal advice, it appears that the proposal isn’t even an option.”

Mandoli said that students have already started to pick out their courses and Crowe has begun the process of transition for the RSS students.

“At this time, we need to move forward.”

Before the school district gives its annual budget bylaw a third and final reading on May 3, more cuts will have to be made as a shortfall of over $500,000 remains in the third draft.

“The board will find ways to balance it, but haven’t decided on the particulars just yet,” said Natalie Verigin, secretary treasurer for the district.

Verigin said that a closed meeting for the committee of the whole is scheduled for today, and on Monday, there is an open public meeting of the presentation.

“The superintendent will be saying where the budget committee has landed, and what he is going to be recommending to the board at the second reading,” she explained.

“The presentation of the proposed budget reconciliation will be made to the public,” said Verigin.

“And how the  $511,000 deficit may be balanced, will be disclosed.”

The trustees will not be discussing the proposal until April 29, the second reading, at which time options to balance the deficit will be debated by the board.

The third reading is the bylaw adoption, and at that time, the budget must be balanced said Verigin.

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