Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas, and oh by the way, save some boxes for packing!

Oh it's never nice when someone decides to ruin the Christmas party. The eggnog has gone bad, the shortbread cookies have gone hard and the tree has toppled as the prospect of school closures intrudes on the festive season.

In what is just some very strange timing, The District Visioning Committee of School District 52 decided to jump into the Christmas spirit with an updated list of schools to be closed in order to meet the goal of 85 per cent capacity in the other schools of the district.

Wednesday’s newsletter to parents of Westview students added the extra bit of news that in 2009 Ecole Westview may be no more as well, as the Committe prepares to release its interim report in January over the issue.

The Committee added Westview to the list that includes Seal Cove and Kanata schools, both of which could be closed for the 2008-09 school year.

While there is no doubt a need for debate on the issue of school closures, the timing of the topic surely leaves a lot to be desired. While students, parents, teachers and staff all head off for a two week break, no visions of sugar plums will dance in their heads, rather the idea of where they'll be going to school in a year or so will now be right up there with the Christmas carols, tinsel and presents.

Man oh man, somebody is going to get a lump of coal on Monday night we suspect.

The Daily News had full details on the issue, which will prove to be an emotional and controversial bit of work for the School District in 2008. The story was the front page lead in Friday’s paper.

Closure spectre looms for parents of Westview kids
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, December 21, 2007

Westview Elementary, one of School District 52's top performing schools is being recommended for closure in 2009.

A letter sent home to Westview parents Wednesday announced Westview had been added as the third District 52 school to face the possibility of closure by September 2009. The District Visioning Committee (DVC), comprised of various stakeholders and charged with the task of exploring all aspects of District 52, unanimously decided three schools should be closed in order to reach the goal of 85 per cent capacity in the district's other schools.

The news of the DVC's recommendation comes much earlier than the official release of their interim report, which will be given to the District 52 school board on Jan. 15 for inclusion in the board's scheduled monthly meeting. As this is only a recommendation to be included in the interim report, the District Visioning Committee has made it clear this does not mean that Westview school is closing, merely that the DVC presently sees it as the best option for the district.

"The decision to close three schools over two school years was not made without major consultation from various interest groups," said District Parent Advisory Council (D-PAC) representatives Kim Goffic and Terri-Lynne Huddlestone in their letter to Westview parents.
"Most groups initially came to the table with trepidation and with the intention of protecting their individual interest group. Upon seeing the overwhelming evidence provided to us by various groups, we all came to the conclusion changes needed to be made."

The timeline for the three recommended closures could see Kanata and Seal Cove closed as of September 2008, and Westview closed by September 2009. Whether the recommendations will still be included in the DVC's final report to the school board in March remains to be seen. However, even if these recommendations are presented to the board, they would require a consultation process and approval process before a school closure could happen.

As D-PAC representatives on the DVC, Goffic and Huddlestone explained in their letter that there is no question Prince Rupert schools are in "desperate need of major repair or replacement", and that the Ministry of Education will not even consider District 52 for funding for repairs or new schools until schools in the district reach or exceed 85 per cent capacity.

"The short-term sacrifices will be long term gains for the students and staff in this district. New schools, new equipment and desperately needed supplies will all be available to all," said the D-PAC letter to parents.

"This is a time for renewal. It should be a time of excitement for all of us. Restructuring is always unsettling but also a time to right things that can be righted."

In addition to the closure of three district schools, the DVC's interim report will recommend that all district staff, including the school board office, resource centre and First Nations Centre, move into the Booth building. It will also be recommended that any money saved be put back into enhancing student achievement in the district.

District 52 staff and trustees were unable to speak to the DVC interim report until it has been officially received at their regular board meeting scheduled for Tues., Jan. 15.

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