Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ecole Westview School to close in 2011 as School District 52 completes its closure debate

After months of consultations and discussion, School District 52 trustees made their final decision on Tuesday night as to which of Prince Rupert's elementary schools would be closed.

Citing the impact of dramatic enrollment decline and the financial challenges facing the school district at this time, Tina Last, the Chair of the Board of Education, explained the decisions that led to the decision to close Ecole Westview School on the city's west side.

 The details of the decision were provided in a press release posted to the School District 52 website on Wednesday. The decision means that Westview will remain open for one more year, with the French Immersion program transfering to Roosevelt School in 2011-2012. The remainder of Westview's students will then transfer over to Pineridge in that school year as well.

The fate of Port Edward school will remain up for debate for another three to six months, as the School District and the District of Port Edward conduct further discussion on the options for schooling in Port Edward. That community has recently completed its own study on the issue, and it's expected that those findings will make up a good portion of those discussions.

The closure of Westview, completes for now a cycle of closures in the School District over the last few years, which saw east side schools Seal Cove and Kanata closed two years ago and the decision to close Prince Rupert Secondary School previously announced for 2011-2012, merging the two high schools at Charles Hays and creating a middle school program for grades 6-8 on the site of the current Prince Rupert Secondary School. (Archive items here and here)

The restructuring program will begin in 2011, with the remaining elementary schools in the system K-5, a middle school and Charles Hays Secondary School as well as the Pacific Coast School all part of the School District flow chart. With this final phase of the review of education in the District now complete, the School District will move forward with its five year Capital plan and seek out funding for the construction of a new facility to serve as the middle school.

The entire process of reconfiguration and closure has been an emotional roller coaster for many parents, students, teachers and administrators, in the press release the School District offered up the reasoning that these changes have been moved forward so as to  enhance the educational outcomes of the students of our community - not just for today but for the future.

And while the School District moves ahead with its blue print, there is no doubt much disappointment in many areas of the city over the loss of their community schools, that played large roles in neighbourhoods across the city. The middle school option which  seemed to be the preferred choice of this School District from the outset has not been universally accepted by all as a desired solution, and by its creation the feeder schools loose their grade six students which for some parents was something that they had wished to avoid.

Still to be heard as well will be how many if any staffing changes take place within the District owing to the closures and reconfiguration plans ahead.

While the School District Chair makes mention of the financial challenges facing the community due to the population decline, not lost on parents and taxpayers are some controversial hirings and departures of the past few years, which saw some consultants bills and employee payouts come to pass during this most financially dangerous moment for the School District. Much of that period of time and those intriguing events passed without explanation from the School District, a move that left a fair amount of room for cynicism over recent decisions and directions.

They are all items of interest that we are sure that will continue to dominate the debate as the School District moves forward towards its new design for education in Prince Rupert. While Tuesday night's decision, may indeed bring closure to the process of configuration, we're not so sure that the debate over education in the city will be at an end any time soon.

Daily News-- With Heavy hearts, Board closes Westview 
CFTK-- Prince Rupert's Ecole Westview To Close in 2011

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