Bulkley Valley School District 54 board trustees vote tonight inside Lake Kathlyn Elementary’s gymnasium on whether the school will be shut down next school year.
District staff presented the cost of keeping Lake Kathlyn Elementary open, as parents and teachers presented the cost to kids of closing it at the last public consultation meeting on its potential closure last Thursday.
The school district received its funding information on March 15, after the first two consultations. That information confirmed the loss of $680,000 in protection funding from the Province for 2016-17.
Secretary treasurer Dave Margerm explained to about 70 people gathered in the school gym that enrolment funding was about the same as this school year, but the plateau of the number of students would lead to the loss of much of the protection funding. The school district will receive $276,000 for next school year, but that will continue to go down as enrolment levels off or goes up.
“We expect the following year, the balance of the $276,000 in funding protection to be removed,” said Margerm.
The closure of Lake Kathlyn would save $350,000 to $550,000.
Margerm explained that the $680,000 in savings needed to be found in the budget equates to 7.5 full time teacher positions. Staff salaries and benefits make up 90 per cent of the operating budget.
Because of provincial laws mandating a maximum class size of 22 in kindergarten and 24 for Grades 1-3, Margerm told the crowd most of those teaching positions would be at high schools. With minimum course offerings needed to have students graduate, only one position could be cut from Houston Secondary School, leaving Smithers Secondary to take the brunt of positions lost at five.
Parents and teachers came up to the microphone to extol the virtues of what they described as a unique school, and the only school where many of the students could be successful. Stories of bullying at other schools, extra attention given by staff, and integration of Wet’suwet’en culture and learning were recounted.
Many also suggested that the Smithers area was due for a population bump with mines like Seabridge’s KSM and Pretivm’s Brucejack opening soon. Some pointed to the impending closure of Huckleberry Mine near Houston as something trustees should take into consideration.
Parent Advisory Council member Leanne Herrington suggested closing one of the Houston elementary schools, the oldest in the district, and blending those students in the high school.
“We are in no way trying to throw Houston under the bus; we’re really not. We are merely trying to present alternative money-saving measures to the board trustees and community,” said Herrington.
Read more on the cost of keeping Lake Kathlyn open and the possibility of a new Walnut Park school in the April 13 edition of The Interior News.