Friday, May 22, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead Thursday, May 21 2009

The School District contemplates its plans for this years budget, CN suggests that the pipeline on rails is still very much a work in progress and the Chamber of Commerce annual meeting is underway.

SCHOOL DISTRICT IS CONSIDERING MIDDLE SCHOOL OPTIONS-- The return of the middle school may be on the agenda for School District 52 as they contemplate all of their options heading into the final steps of their budget for 2010.

With a General meeting less than a month away now, the School District has outlined some of the potential options ahead should the call for a middle school in the city come to pass, options that would most likely see the closure of at least two more schools in the elementary stream currently in place.

In addition, there is the possibility that the move towards the middle school option, could see the School District lose out on funding already earmarked towards the rejuvenation and seismic upgrading for Prince Rupert Secondary School.

In order to help them make up their minds, a four person delegation is heading off to Cowichan on Vancouver Island to study the middle school program currently in place there, it is no doubt hoped that they have something to offer to the debate in time for the June meeting with parents and interested observers at Charles Hays Secondary School.

The School Board's latest developments made for the front page headline story in Thursday's paper. (see story below)
CN is playing its cards close to the vest when it comes to releasing details of their proposed pipeline on rails project, in a follow up article to yesterdays review of the CN plans, the railroad goes only so far as to say that the idea is still in the study phase, with no firm commitment in place at the moment to launch the necessary studies and such required for such an ambitious plan. They suggest a search on the Internet for those that are interested in more details on the proposed process of transferring oil and bitumen from Northern Alberta to the Pacific coast.

The BC Chamber of Commerce began its Annual General Meeting in Prince Rupert on Thursday, with the topic of the proposed Reconciliation Act as one of the key items up for discussion during the three day session. The Chamber has taken an active interest in the provincial governments initiative, seeking a discussion with First Nations across BC to examine the ramifications of the Act.

The Sports section highlighted developments in the world of the UFC and review of some of the sporting events scheduled for next month's Seafest.

Total pages in the Thursday paper (16)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Pages on and five

The Prince Rupert School District is looking, at some hard choices as it heads into the final stage of its budget planning process.

One such decision has everything to do with the future of Prince Rupert Secondary School.

The school district is looking at reforming grade configuration in Prince Rupert which; if put into effect, would alter more than just the student population of the older high school. It could possibly result in closing as many as two elementary schools in the city,

School Board chair, Tina Last, said Tuesday that the school district is sending a four-person team to Cowichan to have a look at the way the middle school there has changed that school district. The contingent wants to see what some of the pluses and minuses of this type of grade configuration have on the day-to-day operations of the school district.

It could be the way the district goes if it is to save PRSS over the long haul.

According to Last. as it is configured right now, PRSS' high school population may only remain sustainable for the next four years.. If a switch to a middle school program is not made, then in all likelihood it would be PRSS on the chopping block.

"A lot of people we haw heard from so far are interested in a middle school. Bur people need to realize that a middle school comes at a cost - and that cost is two more elementary schools," said Last.

This leads up to next month's Town Hall meeting in the Charles Hays multi-purpose room. It could be an emotional affair, as those who are opposed to school closures would have their last opportunity to have their voices heard clearly before the final budget is set.

One voice that does not support school closures is trustee Janet Biel.

Biel, who ran on a campaign of no school closures, said she remains in that position. That doesn't mean she doesn’t realize what the school board is, facing in its decision but she said over the long-term she thinks an industrial town like Prince Rupert will rebound. If and when it does, it would be efficient to have the schools around.

"Through this process, at the end of the day, we are going to find out that grade configuration does not work," said Biel.

Biel added that closures to schools would actually hinder the growth of Prince Rupert, as closing them could turn off potential new residents.

One of the issues that require consideration is the fact that the school has already received a promise for funding for seismic upgrading. The Ministry of Education funding would be for that purpose only and not a general funding grant, so it is possible the school district wouldn't-see a penny from if it decided to close PRSS.

When the School District received the final Matrix report, the final results seemed to indicate that over the next 25 years the school population in Prince Rupert would decline.

That would mean that the district has an abundance of capital or schools within its catchments. Even now, the entire school district is below the 85 percent capacity utilization threshold that the Ministry of Education uses to gauge how much funding is needed for a district.

Without assurances that a population spike is coming, it is possible the school board will have to close one or more schools regardless.

“From a capital perspective, they have obviously looked at PRSS and have sent that school needs help, so is that money well spent to bring PRSS to where it needs to be, or is something else a better idea?”

“If we don’t figure out what we want to do now, then we are sort of out of the line until next year or at the very least until (the provincial government) makes a decision on capital projects,” said Last.

With so much uncertainty, it seemed logical that PRSS administration would be fairly selective in its approach to how many projects staff would be seeking to fund. The Daily News had reported that the school had not applied for any projects by the second All Budget Committee (ABC) meeting, but at the time Secretary Tresurer Kim Morris had encouraged schools to apply for as many projects as they could, regardless of future decisions.

Since then, PRSS principal Sheila Wells has told the Daily News that her school has applied for at least ten projects for the 2009-2010 year.

No comments: