No change to French Immersion enrolment

No change to French Immersion enrolment

Also, no set timeline for decision on Houston school closure.

When it comes to French Immersion in Smithers, Dave Margerm, secretary treasurer for School District 54 (Bulkley Valley) says there will be no further changes coming soon to how students gain a spot in the program.

According to a school district policy adopted last September, siblings of current French Immersion students will be given priority in the kindergarten registration process. If the number of students wanting to enrol in French Immersion exceeds the number of spaces available after the siblings have been accommodated, the student spaces will be determined through a lottery system conducted by the school.

Last year some parents complained about the long waitlist for the French Immersion kindergarten program at Muheim Memorial Elementary School. During a school district meeting last May, parents expressed frustration at the inability to get 14 of their kids enrolled.

New funding model in the works

The provincial government has recently selected the review panel which will find a better way to provide equitable and predictable funding to school districts.

The panel will review the current funding model — how government distributes more than $5.65 billion in operating funding to 60 boards of education throughout the province.

According to the provincial government, the current system was established in 2002 and needs to be updated to reflect changes underway within B.C.’s education system.

The new funding model will also look to better support vulnerable students, including children in care, children with special needs and Aboriginal students, as well as rural and remote school districts.

Consultations with key education stakeholders will take place during the spring of 2018. After consulting with stakeholders, the panel will summarize what it heard and recommend options for a new funding model to the ministry.

The new funding model is expected to be implemented in the 2019-20 school year.

The future of education in Houston is still uncertain.

Although the closure of Silverthorne Elementary is a possibility — which would leave the community with only one elementary school — it’s still unclear when that decision will be made.

“The timeline of any school closure is dependent on many issues – finances and enrolment being the big two variables – and therefore cannot be predicted given necessary board discussions and public consultations,” explained Margerm.

Margerm said the school district board plans to review the facility structures this spring as part of their budget process, and will likely have an update on the possibility of any Houston school reconfigurations.

“The annual facility review also happens again in the fall of 2018, where the discussion of the Houston facilities and any possible reconfigurations or closures will be addressed,” he said.

Another factor that might affect the school district’s decision on whether to close Silverthorne Elementary is the fact that funding protection for the school district would decrease if enrolment stays equal or increases.

“Enrolment is projected to increase next year, but at this time the school district is unsure of the exact amount that funding protection may be reduced,” said Margerm. “The board will not only consider decreases in funding, but also any increases or decreases to enrolment and relative capacity in the two Houston elementary schools.”

Margerm estimates the savings from closing a school to be $300,000-400,000 per year in operating costs. School District 54 administration has insisted no teachers would be laid off, though administrative positions would be lost.

– With files from Chris Gareau.

Bulkley Valley School District 54