Friday, December 11, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Middle School debate moves into the elementary schools, thumbing his way to a 500 dollar gift certificate and NaiKun moves its wind farm project a little further down the road to completion, some of the items of note for Thursday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
SCHOOL DISTRICT 52 IS GOING FOR A MIDDLE SCHOOL-- The Daily News catches up to the middle school debate developments of this week with a front page item that focuses in on the potential closure of elementary schools that may come with the move to the middle school format. With School Board Chair Tina Last suggesting that the closure notices introduced at Tuesday nights meeting now starts the conversation, a parent of three children attending Roosevelt Park (one of the schools on the chopping block) joins in on that debate.

The paper provides a preview of a charity rock concert organized by some Charles Hays students, a show which hopes to raise money for World Vision's well program. The concert takes place at the Fellowship Baptist church at 6:30, admission is by donation at a five dollar minimum cost of entry.

CityWest's text - a -lympics is over and the fastest thumbs belong to Jon Baguio won won the December 9th competition put on by the city owned communication company. For his efforts Baguio collects a five hundred dollar gift certificate from CityWest.

Senior Boys High School and City League basketball highlight the sports pages for Thursday's edition.

(Daily News Archive Articles links for December 10th )

The Northern View
NaiKun wind farm gets provincial approval -- Another step along the way towards the advent of wind power on the north coast, as the NaiKun wind farm project gets the nod of approval from the province. (see article here)

The Northern View
Ferry terminal part of coastal settlement --Klemtu is on the list for a new 25 million dollar ferry terminal, as the provincial and federal government combine economic forces to reconcile aboriginal title on B.C.central coast. (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Naikun receives environmental approval -- CFTK's short capsule item on the NaiKun wind power developments on the north coast (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Coastal Reconciliation -- The details of some reconcilliation agreements between the senior levels of government and First Nations on the north coast (see article here)

CBC British Columbia, Daybreak North
No items for Wednesday were updated on the CBC Daybreak website

Daily News, Front page, headline story
School District 52 is going for a middle school
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, December 10, 2009

As far as Tammy Hopkins is concerned, Roosevelt parents have not been vocal enough about the future of their children’s school.

Hopkins has three children enrolled at the Roosevelt Park Elementary School, and was in attendance Tuesday night as the school board passed several motions that will determine the future of Prince Rupert’s education system.

The school board decided on a new grade configuration that will include a
Grade 6, 7 and 8 middle school on the same property as Prince Rupert Secondary School, and gave second readings to close three district elementary schools.

Roosevelt, Westview and Port Edward Elementary are now on the chopping block. Though the school board has not committed to closing any of the schools yet, it appears inevitable that at least one will close and the only thing left to determine is which.

“All this does is start the conversation,” said School Board Chair Tina Last.

Trustees believe that closing at least one elementary school is necessary to accommodate the new grade configuration plan that includes a middle school because it will draw grade 6 and 7 students away from the elementary schools.

And closing a school on the west side of McBride is the preferred choice because the school district has already closed two schools on the east side, Kanata and Seal Cove.
Over the next 60 days the school board and School District 52 will consult with the public over which school should be closed.

Often absent from the school board consultations, Hopkins said she felt it was time that Roosevelt parents got involved in that conversation.

“It came to my attention that there was no one [from Roosevelt] at the meetings. That kind of touched my heart,” explained Hopkins who was surrounded by a small contingent of Roosevelt parents outside the SD52 office. With her 12-year old daughter Sarah by her side, Hopkins, whose voice often broke with emotion, said that the potential closing of her children’s school was hard to hear.

“I talked to other parents about how this could be that we were not involved? We have to show our youth that they are worth fighting for,” said Hopkins.

According to a September 2008 facility report by the school district, the only two schools that are not significantly under capacity are PRSS and Lax Kxeen.

CHSS is 34 per cent under capacity, while every elementary is, also. Lax Kxeen is four per cent over capacity and PRSS is one percent under capacity (capacity being the amount of students a school can hold).

Needed structural upgrades to both schools will not come cheaply for either one.
In the Matrix Report, the cost to fix up Roosevelt was priced at $5.7 million for significant mechanical issues and asbestos cleaning.

The cost to fix up Westview is slightly cheaper at $3.9 million, which would go to acquire a new roof and significant seismic upgrading.

In the same report, the forecasted enrollment for each school was expected to spike before 2013 under the current grade configuration.

Deciding which school closed would be contentious to say the least, I the view of one stakeholder.
Prince Rupert District Teachers Union president Gabrielle Bureau said he believed the conversation will pit one set of parents against another and asked if the school board was prepared for that.

“This will basically be a wrestling contest,” predicted Bureau.

June Lewis, who helped advise the school board on the middle school option from an Aboriginal parents perspective, said she remained concerned about the new configuration because she felt adding another transition between schools could ultimately do more harm to attendance figures than help.

“I am asking the board to really look into transitions because I believe you will see students dropping out,” said Lewis.

Last asked that Lewis remain involved throughout the process so that the school board remained aware of the different issues faced by Prince Rupert’s Aboriginal community.

“I went into this with an open mind. I have been convinced that a middle school option is the way to go. I feel we can do better and I believe [this option] will improve our graduation rates,’ said trustee Russell Wiens.

While the process convinced Wiens, the lone trustee to vote against the new grade configuration said the process was flawed because there was a bias towards the middle school option.

“I don’t support the middle school option because I don’t believe we’ll see an improvement in our students’ learning behaviour,” said Beil. “And I did not feel we were being transparent with the public - that we were going to have a middle school come hell or high-water.”

Beil’s comments touched off some debate between her and trustee Terri-Lynne Huddlestone who took exception to Beil’s comments, citing the board wanted to hear from the public first before any decision was made.

“I am torn by [Beil’s] comments and I don’t think anything was hidden,” said Huddlestone, who was in attendance through teleconference.

“I take exception to those comments and you should be here to make comments like that,” Beil responded, in reference to Huddlestone’s current location in Terrace.

Port Edward Elementary School also received its second reading for closure, which moves it one step further along the planning line.

The school has little more than 60 students enrolled, putting it seriously under capacity, and the district remains unconvinced that the population totals would rise fast enough to warrant keeping it open.

However, the District of Port Edward council is determined to keep an elementary school in town and is looking at different plans for a mixed-use facility.

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