Warfield weighs in on school closure threat

Warfield ouncil asks the province for schools to be given to municipalities

The ongoing bickering over school closures in School District 20 could be a thing of the past if the Village of Warfield has its way.

Council passed a motion last week at their regular council meeting for a resolution on school buildings, asking the province for schools to be given to the municipalities in the rural communities.

Coun. John Crozier brought the motion forward after he witnessed the way discussion of a school’s closure divided the rural communities — pitting one against another — and the heart rending effect on a community when it was closed.

Warfield’s school was one of the schools recently threatened with a closure, and the ensuing meetings and discussions created a hostile environment at times, said Crozier.

“We know a school is the heart of a community,” he said. “This is a hot topic, but for rural areas this would work quite well.”

He said if a municipality held ownership of the school building, and provided its maintenance and upkeep, there would never be a threat of a school closure, no matter how many students the school contained.

The building would be part of the community, he said. He thought there would be some savings in money as well, with the amalgamation of some municipal and community services within the school building.

Coun. Jim Nelson pointed to the inclusion of schools in municipal buildings, sharing of services, in some small communities on Vancouver Island. They use the gymnasium for all of their community activities all year around, while other areas close their schools for the summer.

“It would seem more reasonable if each municipality was in charge of their own school and was in a contract with the school district for the number of teachers they needed,” added Crozier.

The ramifications and the logistics of such a move would have to be discussed further if the motion moved past the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments — the next step in the journey for the resolution to become recognized by the province — and on to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

The resolution was a long shot, and it was questioned in council.

“Can we even do something like that?” asked Mayor Bert Crockett.

“It has some merit with what has been happening in our particular area,” said Nelson.

Warfield’s chief administrative officer Vince Morelli agreed.

“There is some merit to this, because, in a small community, the school is a vital economic driver. A school is what attracts the young people and families to an area,” he said.

When there is a shortage of funding and there is the threat of schools being closed, the community should have a say in how that is going to happen, Morelli added, because the community’s interests are at heart.