The Coast Mountains School District board has buckled to community pressure and delayed indefinitely a plan to move elementary grade students to the Hazelton Secondary School.
Responding to backlash from parents and teachers, the school board last week voted to absolve the Hazelton/Kitwanga Grade Reconfiguration Committee mandated to “reconfigure” grades at schools in the area.
The committee of teachers and parents had been created by the school district to help implement a plan to move some elementary school students to the high school.
The decision to absolve the committee was made after it presented its progress in a report at the Feb. 18 school board meeting.
In the report, chairperson Janet Meyer put forward a motion that the district office carry out more consultation before establishing a middle school model but it was defeated.
Instead, the board adopted a new motion put forward by Hazelton school board trustee Shar McCrory, who was also acting board chair at the meeting.
The new mandate absolves the reconfiguration committee and makes no mention of changing grade configuration at Hazeltons schools.
“Coast Mountains School District 82 strives for improved graduation rates for all learners, including those in the Hazelton/Kitwanga region,” it reads.
“In an attempt to address the graduation rates in the Hazelton/Kitwanga area, public community consultation will be explored for possible interventions.”
McCrory said she put forward a new motion because she wanted the phrasing to be more specific.
“I wanted it to be very clear … where we are going from here, that it was to community consultation and I didn’t feel that was quite reflected in the original motion,” she said.
McCrory said she could not comment on why there was a perceived lack of consultation in the first instance because she was not a trustee when the reconfiguration plan was made.
She said a reconfiguration would still take place but any changes would be informed by more community consultation.
“The [gist] of it is that we’re striving to improve graduation rates and that the Hazelton/Kitwanga area needs to look at public community consultation in order to improve those graduates rates,” she said.
“The community has spoken and what I’ve heard from community groups, members and various organizations and individuals is that they were not consulted for this reconfiguration scenario that was put forward by the board.
“I think there was just different perception. The board thought that they were consulted and the communities didn’t feel that they were.”
McCrory said the board was still working towards a solution to low graduation numbers in the Hazeltons but it would not necessarily involve changes to grades.
“I can say that there will be some sort of transition,” she said.
“When that happens I don’t know what that looks like I don’t know because we have to consult with communities.
“Will it be the Grade 7s moving to the high school? I don’t know. Will it be a middle school concept? I don’t know.”
Andrea Vickers represented the Majagaleehl Gali Aks Elementary School Parent Advisory Council on the disbanded committee.
Her daughter would also have been among the first cohort of Grade 7s to attend HSS.
She was among those who aired frustrations over a lack of consultation from the district so she was pleased with last week’s decision.
Vickers said McCrory’s motion improved on what the committee had recommended.
“This way it allows everyone to get together and discuss what the real issue is … I’m not saying that a middle school and a high school is absolutely wrong, I’m saying it’s great that we can all get together and discuss the possibilities, what is the problem and brainstorm other ideas of possible solutions,” she said.
“I’m happy and I’m thankful that the board listened to our community and our committee.”
Terrace District Teachers’ Union president Cathy Lambright said the board’s decision was the best possible outcome.
“I think what they are going to do is go back and look at what strategies are going to ensure the students in the Hazeltons achieve better success and better graduation rates,” she said.
“I think that I heard quite clearly from most of the trustees at the table that they are willing to listen to the communities and I think that’s wonderful too.”