By Heather Black
Though not billed as school closure consultations, the topic inevitably came up at Saturday’s School District #83 community engagement session in Sicamous.
After updates from different school board staff regarding curriculum, finances and operations, Official Trustee Mike McKay asked for feedback from the 50-60 community members in attendance through a short questionnaire before opening the floor to questions and concerns, at which time the proposed kindergarten to Grade 12 option took centre stage.
Regardless of whether the school system remains in two different buildings or is combined into one, the key point that emerged from the session is to keep education in Sicamous, rather than send students elsewhere.
Val Edgell, chair of the K-12 task force, presented findings from their research, including a number of benefits, such as earlier exploration of different subjects such as foods and shop, older students becoming more responsible and better behaved, less impact on kids from transitioning between schools.
Community members, however, want more details before any decisions are made, though most are determined to see the full K-12 option in Sicamous regardless of the structure that would require. While those in attendance acknowledged that enrolment numbers are currently in a slump, they questioned what will happen in 10, 15 or 20 years when numbers could rebound.
The issue of location also came up when Joe McCulloch, the district’s operations manager and father of two young kids, inquired which building—Parkview Elementary or Eagle River Secondary—would be used.
“Where would you put the one school?” he asked. “On the Trans-Canada and Main Street, or in a residential area near a recreation centre?”
That isn’t, however, the only deciding factor, as the elementary school lacks the shop, science labs and foods lab that the high school is already equipped with.
“That makes Eagle River Secondary the quicker, cheaper option,” McKay explained, but added that they are still looking at options, though need to act sooner than later. “We have to do something. We can’t play out five years.”