Castlegar Primary slated for closure

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
November 26th, 2009

Castlegar Primary School is one of many schools in the district now on the chopping block, with closure pending as early as the 2010/11 school year, as the board of School District 20 looks for options in coping with declining enrollment and increased costs.
The board’s “Planning for the Future” document indicates that, “Enrollment in the Castlegar area will drop by 190 students over the next 5 years, and empty seats will increase to 600.”
Board chair Mac Gregory said the options being presented are just that – options – and are subject to revision based on feedback the board will seek from the community as well as from unions and school principals.
“There are lots of empty spaces in Castlegar, when you take all the schools into account,” he said. “The (provincial) funding formula is tied directly to the number of students we have, and we’re in a steady decline, and have been for years …and that decline is expected to continue until at least 2013.”
He said that decline represents a loss of roughly $1 million a year from the SD 20 budget – while the cost of maintaining infrastructure like school buildings is ever on the rise.
He said the proposal will seem them take Grade 7 from the primary schools and move it to Stanley Humphreys Senior High, to make best use of infrastructure costs in a school not currently filled to capacity.
Students from Castlegar Primary will be moved to Twin Rivers Elementary, which would, according to the report, represent, “an ongoing annual operational savings of approximately $119,250. Savings in the first year would be $55,750 due to the required one-time moving and relocation costs.”
“The movement …would not be a drastic change for them, as the two schools are in the same area of town,” Gregory said, adding there won’t be any services or classroom spots lost. “It’s a reshuffling, not a cut.”
Grade 6 Late French Immersion would move to Kinnaird Elementary so that Twin Rivers is less
crowded, while On-line Learning would move into Castlegar Primary, allowing SD 20 to dispose of the On-line Learning property.
Maintenance yards in Waneta and downtown Castlegar are also slated for closure, with a new, centralized maintenance facility to be constructed at the Blueberry School site, which will continue regular programming but may also eventually hold the school board offices as well, when the current office site lease expires in 2013.
The cuts don’t just hit Castlegar, either – the board is proposing to create one large Trail/Warfield elementary school at the old middle school site in East Trail. The Warfield school would close, while Glenmerry Elementary would be re-purposed to house special needs and Aboriginal students. Rossland’s Maclean Elementary School would close and Rossland Secondary School would become an inclusive Kindergarten to Grade 12 facility.
Gregory said the changes will not be institute without public input, and meetings are scheduled with the various municipal governments involved as well as with unions and school executives to go over the current plan.
“We have meetings scheduled in Castlegar, Trail and Rossland in January, as well … so we can get feedback and make appropriate changes,” he said, adding ti is an ambitious plan for the district to undertake.
“We want to be able to work through this with as little disruption as possible,” he said.”But we’re looking at a loss of about $1 million a year, not to mention hints we’ve been hearing from the provincial government about further, future (funding) cuts.”
In related news, Gregory will no longer be board chair as of Dec. 7 of this year, when a meeting will see a new chair elected to the board. Gregory is completing his third term as chair, despite rules indicating a chair should only serve two concurrent terms, so he said the change is past due.



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