School board to consider school closure Jan. 19

December 28, 2015 8:07 am
Kevin Weedmark

The Southeast Cornerstone School Division board of education will meet with representatives of Wapella on Jan. 7, and will decide at its next board meeting on Jan. 19 whether to continue to consider closure or grade discontinuance at Wapella.

If the school board decides on Jan. 19 to consider closure, there will be a meeting of electors called, and the board would look for additional submissions before making a final decision. Any change would take place after the end of the current school year.

The school board is also considering closure or grade discontinuance at Pangman School, and a delegation of seven individuals led by Lori Wolstenholme, Chair of the School Review Committee for Pangman School, attended the December 17 regular meeting of the Board of Education to present information on that school.

The presentation centred on the successes of Pangman School as well as concerns with respect to the possible impact that potential school closure/grade discontinuance would have on the community. The presentation included correspondence from the community as well as concerns verbalized by two students who were in attendance from Pangman School.

Board chair Audrey Trombley explained that the meeting with the Pangman delegation, and the upcoming meeting with the Wapella committee are a regular part of the school review process.

“From November 1 until the end of January, once the board makes a motion to review the school, it’s under review and the community then establishes a committee,” she explained.

“It’s two people from local government, the town and the RM, school community council, that sort of thing. They request information from us and they provide information to the board. That process goes on up to the end of January, and because it has to be a public meeting (where the board makes the decision) it’s set for the 19th of January. Up until that time they can request all kinds of information and they have community meetings and decide what they want to do. If the community, after this committee meets, and they decide that they want to discontinue some grades, they can come and say to the board, ‘We propose that you do this.’ If we agree to what their proposal says, that would happen and then the review process is done.

“Wapella has set up a committee, and the committee has met with our senior leadership team, and they will be presented to the board, on January 7. We invite them to make presentations to the board. What the period from Nov. 1 to Jan. 30 is about is exchanging information.”

So they made a presentation and the board has copies of their presentation and they will read them and consider them between now and January 19.”

“If we move to consider closure or grade discontinuance, the process then goes on until April. By March 31 we are required to go into the community and have a public meeting with them and listen to their concerns. We would receive more information from them, they would present delegations again during that period of time, and then we would have to make a decision. By March 31, that process is done, sometime between the end of January and the end of March, all those meetings and delegations would happen in that period of time. After March 31, the board will make the decision either to leave everything the way it is, or discontinue grades, or school closure.”

“It’s a long process. It was much quicker before, but when this government got elected they said, ‘No, no, communities need more time,’ so they set up the legislation that has given communities ample opportunities to present. Before that even, we make sure we send out to the school community councils and let them know that our information shows that their numbers are low ahead of time. So if they have any information they can let us know. We always feel that school community councils should be consulted and advised ahead of time, so we’ve been doing that over the years.”

What did Tromblay take away from the Pangman presentation?

“My view is that Pangman loves their school, they love their community, and they’re saying that their quality of education is exactly what they want. So that’s what they’re telling me, and that’s what their presentation is saying.”

“There were a couple of students that spoke very well. And they love their school. They have very few students in high school but they feel that they’re getting a quality education, that was what they were saying to us. They were very passionate about it.”

“Before making a decision, we certainly will look at the numbers and how that affects staffing and the quality of education that we can provide. The quality of education that we can provide is number one. Current class size and projected class size numbers for the next five years are also taken into account. The information that we get on that is pretty accurate, so we look at current and projected class size. Other things that board members will consider is the facility, transportation, and resources. Those are the main factors that we consider.”

Tromblay said she expects to see people from Pangman and Wapella to be there for the decision on Jan. 19.

“It’s very likely that both Pangman and Wapella will be at the public meeting on the 19th,” she said. “They’re certainly invited to be there.”

She said the board has to consider a lot of different factors in making its decision.

“We know that in Pangman they love their community and they love their school, we just have to look at some other factors and the board will make a decision based on how much weight they’re putting on those factors. As of the 19th, the process will end or we will start a whole new process of review. Our board is very fair and compassionate, and I’m not sure what they’re going to do.”