Less than a third of students at Midway Elementary School (MES) live in the village, according to School District 51 (SD 51).
District administrators shared this and other information with West Boundary parents at an open house held via Zoom Monday evening, Jan. 24. Also present were the Boundary’s seven school board trustees, who will decide whether or not to close MES.
The board voted last December to hold public consultations with affected community members and district staff, who have until Feb. 17 to submit written concerns to SD 51. These concerns will be summarized at a second open house on Feb. 24 and will inform the board’s final vote on March 15.
Much of the information heard at last Monday’s meeting had been presented at the school board’s meeting in December, when Superintendent Anna Lautard said sharing staff and resources between MES and nearby Greenwood Elementary School (GES) makes it hard to recruit and retain qualified teachers.
Three promising teacher candidates had recently accepted or expressed interest in positions split between the schools, but then took jobs at other districts, where Lautard said the candidates didn’t have to teach at more than one school.
Midway and Greenwood elementaries meanwhile share a principal, leading to concerns about a lack of adult supervision, Lautard told the board.
When the board and concerned parents met at Monday’s meeting, they were told by SD 51 administrators that, of the 31 K-3 students at MES, 29 per cent (nine kids) live in Midway. The other 71 per cent (22 kids) live in Greenwood, where the board is considering merging MES with Greenwood Elementary.
Both schools are in “very poor” shape, according to SD 51’s facility condition index (FCI). For context, MES and GES are ranked equally poorly on the FCI, which ranks both schools somewhat ahead of the main building at Midway’s Boundary Central Secondary and slightly ahead of Grand Forks’ Perley Elementary, neither of which are up for potential closures.
But MES is 41 years older than GES and has capacity for fewer students, according SD 51. Board trustees and parents heard last Monday that MES contains the carcinogenic insulation material asbestos and needs a $400,000 upgrade to its roof.
Merging the two schools at GES would save the district money on utilities, insurance and equipment. No teachers would be laid off, though SD 51 administrators said there could be lay offs among janitorial staff at MES.
The district’s budget overwhelmingly comes from the ministry of education and would not change in either event.
GES, now attended by less than 30 children in grades 4-7, could take MES kids starting next September, according to SD 51.
Affected parents can submit written concerns and proposed solutions to SD 51 via email at email@example.com, by fax at 250-442-8800 or by mail at Box 640, Grand Forks, B.C., V0H 1H0. Submissions must include parents’ first and last names and addresses, according to SD 51.
SD 51 has said there could be a third open house in early March. The district has not yet set a location for its Feb. 24 session, but has said it will livestream the meeting for those who can’t attend in person.