Lake Kathlyn Elementary is facing closure.

Re: Proposed Closure of Lake Kathlyn School

Lake Kathlyn Elementary's parent advisory council's Kelly Storey believes there are better options than closing the school.

Mr. Margerm – “I could collapse a school and have two without a problem in Houston. But that is a very long discussion. Watching the population numbers. Silverthorne is the largest and most under utilized. It would save us $250,000-300,000 in operational costs. Where do you want the money? That’s the discussion that needs to be needed.”

Superintendent van der Mark – “If you were building schools today would you build three schools in Houston today? What would be the best for education and the students?”

These quotes are right from the May 21, 2015 school board minutes which are posted on the School District 54 website.  This was discussed before the closure of Huckleberry Mine.

Secretary treasurer Margerm is trying to have it both ways. He will watch the population numbers in Houston, where all three schools are under 60 per cent capacity, but his answer to one of our questions regarding population growth: “Given historic data and projected future growth, the risk of overcapacity is seen to be very low. The other factor is that the Ministry does not fund excess school district facilities in the event of a possible significant enrolment growth. The school closure recommendation is based on the restricted level of funding (based on enrolment); subsidizing excess facilities at the expense of district-wide educational programs is not a viable or sustainable option.”

Please refer to Lake Kathlyn – Questions and Answers posted on the SD 54 website.

We have reviewed the Facilities Report and have great concern! If the trustees vote in favour of closing our school, our children will be put in harm’s way. According to the boards own Facility Review, Walnut Park School has structural issues with the 1973 and 1971-built wing and gym, vandalism, poor traffic flow, paving drainage, and building end of life.

Does it make sense to close a school that only needs cosmetic upgrades and put another 84 children plus a Strong Start program, plus a Home School program into a school that has structural issues with a lot of the building? Also, all three Houston schools have some big ticket upgrade needs such as boilers, and a ventilation system is at end of life. Exactly how is closing Lake Kathlyn saving money? If this process is guided by board values, then the process should be finished now as value three. Safety for students will not be met.

By closing the school, some parents are going to be forced to go against the recommendations of their pediatrician. Dr Clare Moisey, now retired, has recommended Lake Kathlyn School to many parents for various reasons.

We are by no means saying that Lake Kathlyn is better than other schools in our district. Because we are a smaller, rural school, we offer a great uniqueness that we should be commended for, not bullied.

The federal Liberal budget is offering a tax deduction to local farms that contribute to the Farm to School Salad Bar Lunch Program sponsored by the Public Health Association of B.C. Lake Kathlyn is the only school in our district participating in this program.

Lake Kathlyn students, David and Birdie from the Wet’suwet’en and other community members developed a cultural/ecological interpretive trail on the school’s property. The school has just purchased enough sets of snowshoes for a class so that the trail can be utilized in the deep snow winter months.

The location of Lake Kathlyn would make the installation of a geothermal heating system an ideal way to decrease our carbon footprint as required under the Greenhouse Gas Target Reduction Act.

Why is the school board so defensive about not having the third consultation meeting at Walnut Park School? The final decision could impact the school, students, and parents.  The school board’s resistance to holding any of the consultation meetings at Walnut Park concerns us greatly, as we are now wondering how bad are the structural issues and if the children already attending the school in harm’s way.

Mr. Margerm’s numbers in his presentation to the public do not show the whole “truth.” Yes, Lake Kathlyn’s capacity numbers are low, however, the school was set up to fail. We are currently turning students away because all our classrooms have been made into split classes. We are not allocated additional teachers to un-split our classes to prove our true capacity.

In the presentation presented to the board to consider the closure of Lake Kathlyn School, Mr. Dave Margerm and Mr. Mike McDiarmid — assistant superintendent — have only given two possible options:

1. Continue to leave Lake Kathlyn open.

In the event that closure is not a viable option, increasing financial pressures on the district funding will require the district administration to consider reducing Lake Kathlyn costs given its extremely low capacity and the necessity to distribute resources equitably throughout the district. This would likely come in the form of two actions:

a) Cease transportation of students from Smithers area to Lake Kathlyn School. Estimated savings from reduction in transportation is approximately $25,000 per year.

b) Closure of one wing of Lake Kathlyn. Savings are estimated at approximately $30,000 per year.

2. Proceed with the closure of Lake Kathlyn Elementary School.

There are other options, unfortunately, that are not as “easy” as closing another rural school.

Option 1: Closure of one of the three Houston schools. Mr. Margerm himself said that he could collapse one of the Houston schools without a problem.

Option 2: Closure of Walnut Park School. The building is at end of life and has structural issues with a great portion of the building. Lake Kathlyn school and Telkwa school have the capacity to house the students from Walnut Park School.

The third and final public consultation meeting is 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 7 at Lake Kathlyn School. We urge the public to come out and support us and/or come and ask the school board questions.

 

Kelly Storey

Lake Kathlyn PAC

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