Midway Elementary, pictured above, is the older of two West Boundary schools that have to share staff due to low enrollment numbers. Photo: Screenshot / sd51.bc.ca

Midway Elementary, pictured above, is the older of two West Boundary schools that have to share staff due to low enrollment numbers. Photo: Screenshot / sd51.bc.ca

Boundary school board votes to start public engagement about potential school closure

Students’ safety cited among ongoing concerns at Midway and Greenwood elementaries

The Boundary’s Board of Education voted Tuesday, Dec. 14, to start a public consultation process about potentially closing Midway Elementary.

The 60-day consultation period will start in the new year and will include two community meetings before the school board takes a final vote in March, according to Board Chair Rose Zitko. If the board votes to shutter the school, the roughly 30 K-3 students now enrolled at Midway Elementary would join a similar number of students in grades 4-7 at neighbouring Greenwood Elementary, which is considerably newer and has the capacity for between 120 and 140 kids.

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The Boundary’s School District 51 (SD 51) is up against difficulties at both schools, particularly around students’ safety and staff recruitment, Superintendent Anna Lautard said Tuesday. In both instances, Lautard pointed out that the schools have to share staff, including a principal.

“In most circumstances, the principal takes on the supervision role,” she explained. “But, if the principal is at the other school, and we have supervisors that are missing from both schools, which has happened this year, we have a safety issue,” she said.

SD 51 has recently had trouble finding a new teacher for Midway/Greenwood. Candidates have had better offers from other districts, where Lautard said they’re not asked to split their working lives between two schools and a bothersome commute.

“This year … we had three teachers who initially accepted a job at Midway/Greenwood. The first two actually signed agreements that they backed out of,” she told the board, noting that a third candidate declined the job after a very promising interview.

Qualified teachers have to be shared between the schools because neither has enough students to justify a full-time specialized position, Lautard said.

Without striking a position on the matter, the superintendent said moving forward with the consultation process would allow for much needed community input on the future of primary education in the West Boundary.

“Perhaps, as a group, we will find a solution that will ensure optimal student learning for all students. We don’t know what that solution would be at this time. But, the motion has to pass for us to have conversation in a transparent way, where we’re not talking behind closed doors,” she told the board.

Board Trustee Bronwen Bird then motioned to start the process. Bird’s motion was seconded by Trustee Katie Jepsen and approved by the rest of the board.

Zitko said the board would hold a community meeting at Midway Elementary in the new year. Affected parents and staff will then have three weeks to submit written responses, to be summarized at a second meeting at the school roughly a month later.

By that time, it will be March, when Zitko said the board would resolve the issue at its regular meeting.


 

@ltritsch1
laurie.tritschler@grandforksgazette.ca

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@ltritsch1
laurie.tritschler@boundarycreektimes.com

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Education