Jan 10,2007 - Tri City News

By Sarah Payne The Tri-City News
Jan 10 2007

Trustees are reviewing the consultation process for school closure after parents complained about the lack of opportunity to present their issues and concerns.

School trustees were expected to meet last night to “make sure we’re all doing the same thing,” said board chair Melissa Hyndes. “The board needs to have a discussion to see if we want to proceed with the process as is, or look at attending the meetings.”

The board announced last month trustees were considering closing eight Tri-City elementary schools due to declining enrolment and aging buildings. In 2005/’06 enrolment dropped by 637 students, worth $3.7 million in funding based on $5,830 per student.

A series of consultations was scheduled at each of the schools to get feedback from parents.

But according to some Parent Advisory Councils, the process doesn’t allow for “real” dialogue, especially since trustees were not planning to attend the meetings.

“It’s not really a dialogue when we’re just discussing with each other something we already agree on,” said Dawn Cartwright, Coronation Park’s PAC vice-president. “It’s all like-minded thinking.”

The consultation meeting format has parents and other participants breaking into groups of about 10 to discuss issues and concerns, any potential benefits and other options as an alternative to possible closure. PACs can also provide additional data in a report.

A facilitator will present findings to senior board staff, followed by time for discussion. Three main points from each discussion will then be forwarded on to the board.

“It’s a true consultation model, as opposed to a town hall type of meeting,” said Cheryl Quinton, board spokesperson.

Tina Feaver, treasurer of Millside’s PAC, whose meeting is slated for today, said trustees should be at the meetings.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, and I think parents would feel a lot better if [trustees] were there to back up why they feel this way.”

Cartwright said PACs and parents want an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of their schools to those with decision-making power. At Millside, for instance, many parents don’t have vehicles and rely on a school within walking distance. As well, the school is primed to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

Chris St. Germaine, president of the Meadowbrook PAC, said his group purchased a newspaper ad last week to encourage all parents, teachers, grandparents, former students and teachers, community groups and neighbours to attend their Jan. 11 meeting because the entire community will be affected by the school’s closure.

“The elementary school is the heart of the community,” she said.

Consultation meetings are being held at:

• Lincoln - Jan. 10, 7-9 p.m.

• Millside - Jan. 10, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Coronation Park - Jan. 10, 7-9 p.m.

• Meadowbrook - Jan. 11, 6-8 p.m.

• Mountain View - Jan. 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• College Park - Jan. 15, 7-9 p.m.

• Moody - Jan. 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• Vanier - Jan. 16, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

A second round of consultation meetings is scheduled for the first two weeks of February, just before a special board meeting on Feb. 20 where parents can ask trustees questions. The board will make its decision Feb. 27.

Parents can also contact the board directly through the school board office; visit www.sd43.bc.ca or call 604-939-9201 for details.