Parent advisory council expresses desire to take high road during
talks about school district cuts
With the threat of school closures striking close to home, Warfield parents are looking to strengthen district relationships.
Webster Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Council wrote a letter this week to Rossland’s two PACs in hopes of clearing the air on any preconceived divisiveness between the two communities – and to offer support in what lies ahead.
“Each of us live in a community with people in Rossland, one way or the other, and have found ourselves tiptoeing,” said Webster PAC executive Jennifer Sirges.
“We care deeply about our neighbours and our relationships and do not want assumptions and misperceptions to colour the way we live in one another’s backyards.”
Sirges is referring to the shelved Planning for the Future document that puts closing Rossland Secondary School in all of its best-case scenarios.
Though introduced as a way to provide information to residents and start a discussion on reconfiguring the school district, the document that could eventually seal the fate of RSS has caused community uproar.
The Warfield parents understand what Rossland is going through and though its schools are not under the axe in the planning document, they feel the future is still uncertain.
“A year ago we were there. In fact, we’re still there,” said Sirges. “There are no guaranteed passes for any schools in the district, and we’re aware we have to work cooperatively to maintain the best possible school system. We want to see children’s education be the priority and we want to balance the chequebook.”
Diana Wilkes, PAC chair for Rossland Secondary School, said they will put together a collective response to Warfield but the message
so far is that many are pleased to see a “refreshing” change from the regular “disheartening” “venom” pressed by community members opposed to Rossland’s desire to keep its schools.
“We’re doing the best we can in our community,” she said. “We’re just trying to keep our heads up.”
Webster’s PAC has made some progress in the neighbourhoods of learning concept, which encourages schools to bring community programs into schools that in turn, provides a new revenue stream and sustains the facility.
“Certainly I can’t speak to everywhere in the province, but certainly the Webster PAC is partnering with the Village of Warfield and others to maximize cost-neutral community use of the school; we wish Rossland every best success with their own similar endeavors,” said Sirges.
Warfield council recently agreed to give Webster’s PAC $1,800 toward moving an art program into a school portable, should the parent group receive clearance from the school district.
This after another community approach successfully started up with support from village council.
The Webster After School Care Program, run by Sunshine Children’s Centre, started in September thanks to a financial contribution from the village. The village gave over $10,000 toward the maintenance of the former classroom into a care facility, and both Sunshine and the school’s PAC split the approximate $5,000 cost for materials.
Meanwhile further up the hill, the Rossland Neighbourhoods of Learning has presented an education proposal to the school board to preserve both K-12 education and RSS.
The plan’s first scenario would see K-12 move into Rossland Secondary by 2012 and MacLean Elementary School sold to the city and used as a neighbourhood learning centre with the francophone school also occupying space.
The second option would add neighbourhood-learning wings to RSS with the francophone school and community organizations leasing space in the building to offset costs and generate revenue.
While the plan has garnered letters of interest from organizations, building significant partnerships to share and pay for the learning centre may be a barrier.
“They don’t have the solid criteria they need to have,” said school trustee Toni Driutti, who is beyond frustrated that the public consultation process has been put on hold.
Though each PAC struggles with its own schools during a time where low enrolment determines the worth of the facility, a representative from every school in the district sits on the District Parent Advisory Council to “speak loudly on behalf of parents and children within the school district,” explained Sirges.
“Number one, it’s about the kids and the quality of education that they are able to receive in this district,” she said. “Let’s not lose sight of this fact due to current political or personal pressures.”