Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Tuesday, February 9, 2010)

School District deliberations, a Rupertite and her son are off to the Olympics and Kitimat faces budget decisions that seem rather familiar, some of the items of note in the Tuesday News file

Daily News, Front page, headline story
DISTRICT 52 BEGINS SCHOOL REVIEWS IN PRINCE RUPERT-- An emotional round of discussion on the fate of local elementary schools is set to continue, as the Daily outlines some of the background on the upcoming round of consultation on which of three, if not all elementary schools will be closed in September of 2011. As we reviewed on this blog back on February 4, the School District has already hosted its first consultation with Westview and Port Edward parents, with Roosevelt Park School up next for public session in March.

A Prince Rupert resident and her son are off to the Olympics thanks to her success in draw, after she submitted a story tying in the twin themes of sport and First Nations culture. Dale Campbell, a local carver and karate instructor, examined the discipline of her sport with her return to the traditional practices of the fishery in Telegraph Creek. Her story is part of a submission for a prospective book to inspire First Nations to become more involved with sport and tradition. For her efforts and with her luck of the draw, she and her son Aidan will be off to see Russia play Latvia at the Vancouver games.

Page three of Tuesday's paper provides a rebuttal from Mary Polak, the Minister of Child and Family Development, who offers her response to a February 3rd article in the Daily News. Suggesting that the Daily is wrong in its report that decisions have already been made concerning cut backs to services in the Northwest. The Daily offered up a review of the background on that article and the latest interpretations by the Minister of the state of service in the Northwest.

More coverage of the recent Northern B. C. Winter games dominated the sports pages as capsule reviews of Basketball, Futsal, Special Olympics and Volleyball made up the review. A look at the Senior Rainmakers and PRSS's Grade eight basketball squads also was featured on Tuesday.

The Northern View
Prince Rupert School District discusses upcoming budget, consultation process -- A look ahead to the deliberations of School District 52 as they begin their budget consultation process, the preliminary numbers were examined, but that all could change drastically depending on what the provincial government delivers in its upcoming budget in March (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Prince Rupert RCMP Recruit extra eyes and ears-- The City's COP program, (Citizens on Patrol) began its quest for volunteers on Tuesday night, seeking to rebuild the program which was disbanded due to a lack of interest a few years ago (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Kitimat Fire Department Faces Cuts-- The first of the financial shoes may be set to drop in Kitimat as the city grapples with its financial problems due to the declining economic situation.CFTK provides a look at how the city council there is contemplates funding cuts to the Fire Department (see article here)

CBC British Columbia, Daybreak North
Throne Speech 2010 -- Daybreak examines the content of the Liberal governments Speech from the Throne, with some analysis from NWCC Political Science Instructor, Hondo Arendt (listen to interview here).

The full list of current Daybreak North interviews can be found here.

The Daily News, Front page, headline story
District 52 begins school reviews in Prince Rupert
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tomorrow marks the beginning of closure consultation for three elementary schools.

The school board says no final decisions have been made as to which school will meet the chopping block, but locals can expect that one school if not all three may in fact close by September 2011.

Ecole Westview, Port Edward Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary all face closure notices.

Senior management will give a presentation on where the school district stands based on enrollment figures, the seat capacity available in the schools and the possible scenarios if one or more of the school closes. The first meeting is tomorrow at Westview, beginning at 6:30 pm, followed by Port Edward on Thursday, then Roosevelt on March 2.

Prince Rupert District Parents Advisory Council Vice Chair Kim Nicholls told the Daily News that this was going to be an emotional issue for parents around the city.

“Parents are upset when neighbourhood schools are closed, and their children can no longer easily walk to school. Parents are concerned about the transitions their children will face when their school is closed. We hope that our district has learned from the closures of Kanata and Seal Cove, and is able to support better transitions if schools are closed in the future in our district,” wrote Nicholls in an email. Nicholls was critical that the current process has not been inclusive of parents.

“Parents may write letters to board members, attend board meetings as observers, and make presentations at school closure meetings. However, parents do not feel like the opportunity for open dialogue between partners has been available.”

School Board chair Tina Last wanted to reinforce that no decision has been made.

“At the end of the day, the decision is a board decision and we have to make the best decision for the 2,500 students we are charged with,” said Last. “You will always get people who don’t like the process, but I don’t think there is a perfect process.”

The local DPAC recognized that SD52 has maintained the same number of schools that were available when the population of Prince Rupert was close to 21,000 people. Now with a population just above 12,000 it is difficult to justify spending money to keep the same number of schools open for a declining numbers of students each year.

School closures have been receiving significant attention around the province. School District 57 in Prince George has given seven schools notice of closure because of a $7 million drop in that district’s budget.

In Prince Rupert, the school district has tried to sell closed school properties, but to no avail. Both Kanata, which was closed in the last round of closures, and the Oona River gymnasium, which have an almost non-existent population of children, are to remain in the school district’s hands as per government edict.

The Oona River property has received interest from the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District in turning the property into a local community hall, but the offer to purchase was rebuffed by the ministry.

In a letter to the school board, Ministry of Education deputy minister James Gorman said that selling any public property was out of the question.

“It is the government’s strong belief that the publicly funded school lands acquired by boards of education be retained for public use,” wrote Gorman.

That hasn’t sat well with Last.

“The part we are starting to feel the frustration with, is that we have been entertaining the possibility of selling the closed facilities. I remember when we first had to look at the possibility of school closures, it was my understanding that if a district closed a school and that property belonged to the district, that district could attempt to sell that property and use the capital funds to pay for future capital projects,” said Last.

The government rewrote the Disposal of Land or Improvement Order in 2008 so that property could be preserved for future school use with an anticipated enrolment growth over the next few years.

Prince Rupert and District Teachers Union president Gabrielle Bureau told the Daily News that teachers have resigned themselves to one school closing. He said the question now is what criteria is the school board going to use if it chooses one school over another?

“Is it location? Is it the size of the school? It will be a political decision. [And] it’s either Westview or Roosevelt. It will be one,” said Bureau. “And unless the board comes up with some sort of good arrangement with District of Port Edward, then they’ll close that school, too.”

There are some plans in Port Edward to develop a multi-use facility, possibly using the school building for this purpose, but the details of how that would work have not yet been presented to the school board.

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