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Meeting on fate of Blueberry Creek school draws hundreds

More than 225 people crowded into the Blueberry Creek Community School (BCCS) gymnasium Monday night for a school-district-initiated meeting to discuss the fate of the property on which the school is housed.

Rebecca McDonnell, BCCS community liaison, said SD 20 has made it clear they want to dispose of the property, and presented nine scenarios for the property (none of which included the BCCS Society’s proposal to purchase same for $1, which is outlined here, http://castlegarsource.com/news/letter-plan-save-blueberry-creek-community-school-33751#.VEkUxGefZqw ), but the society was given the opportunity to present its option to the assembled crowd.

McDonnell said one of the upsides of this scenario would be more funding options, as the current shortterm lease they enjoy with the school district cripples them for many grants that are only available to programs with longterm location solutions.

“The public almost unanimously supported our idea,” said McDonnell, explaining attendees were each given two stickers upon arrival, and were asked to place them on one of the papers pinned to the wall, each outlining a different scenario, to indicate their preference (attendance was so high, they ultimately ran out of stickers and had to resort to manual ticks, instead).

Eight stickers were put on a proposal floated by council candidate Bruno Tassone, suggesting a long-term lease, and another seven were stuck to SD 20’s ‘Option G’, which was for the SD to hang on to the property for future district use.

The BCCS Society’s proposal, by comparison, got 387 stickers/ticks from attendees, evidencing an overwhelming public preference for the plan.

“Now they (district representatives) will take the information from the meeting for further deliberation,” McDonnell said. “I don’t think this creates any kind of obligation for them – it’s still within their power to do whatever they want to do.”

She said that, if the board approves the transfer of the property, the society’ll have to start fundraising to address some of the issues that made the board want to let go of the property in the first place.

“It’s a very old building, and does need a new roof and furnace. There are a lot of expenses involved in its upkeep,” she said, adding the society raised more than $50,000 last year for a new community kitchen and upgrading bathrooms to be wheelchair accessible. She said the value of the programming the building houses makes this sort of effort more than worthwhile.

 “We operate a hub with many different community benefits – it’s a one-stop shop for families,” she said, referring to the StrongStart program, after school care, four different pre-school classes (58 spaces) and a 20-space daycare, community gardens and kitchens, and more.

“Our philosophy here is sort of ‘nurturing in nature’, introducing healthy, sustainable lifestyles in all our programming, for example, the way the children plant, harvest and cook their own food from the gardens,” she said.

The BCCS also houses Selkirk continuing education programming for adults, workshops for community members, seniors programming, and even a very popular bluegrass group.

“Organizations like ours have to be extremely entrepreneurial just to exist in BC, or anywhere in rural Canada,” she said, explaining that, by trying to cover all the cracks in existing systems, they sometimes end up falling through the cracks themselves, in terms of funding.

For more information, visit http://www.blueberrycreekcommunityschool.org/main/