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Alternative to closure considered for Parkview Elementary

Trustee suggests dividing Sicamous schools by Grades K-5 and 6-12.
School District #83 trustee Mike McKay has offered an alternative to closing Parkview Elementary that will be up for discussion following the Feb. 14 school board meeting at Eagle River Secondary

Closure is no longer an option under consideration for Parkview Elementary.

In a School District #83 newsletter released on Monday, Feb. 6, official trustee Mike McKay states that as a result of many developments since last spring, he’s asked Sicamous’ K-12 task force and senior leadership team for input on the following options:

• Configure Parkview Elementary as a K-5 elementary school and include early childhood services in the school;

• Configure Eagle River Secondary as a Grade 6-12 school and ensure there is a strong middle-years focus and programming for students in Grades 6-8, and a specific secondary program focus that will help to increase the viability of the secondary program for local students, and;

• Allocate capital funds (local and through Ministry of Education grant process) to update Eagle River Secondary and to ensure that early childhood spaces are appropriate at Parkview Elementary.

The task force was created after former school board trustees conducted a long-term facilities plan, the results of which recommended Parkview be closed and Eagle River converted into a K-12 school. The task force studied this recommendation and found it to be a “viable response to the circumstances of the day.”

“It was a solution that would ensure a continuity of education from K-12 in the community,” said McKay, adding this process likely would have resulted in the elementary school property being sold to fund the renovations needed at Eagle River to accommodate the “full range of students.”

Since the completion on the task force’s report on the conversion, and subsequent work to address local concerns, McKay explains a number of important variables have changed. One of those was the announcement of the Rural Education Enhancement Fund (REEF) was introduced, providing districts with an opportunity to receive grants to keep small/rural schools open.

“Given the REEF grant, it would no longer be accurate to list financial pressures as a reason to close Parkview,” said McKay. “Nor could school closure be recommended because of insufficient population at Parkview.”

Other sources of Ministry of Education funding have also been accessed since last spring, said McKay, and “enrolment increased this fall, Meaning the level of financial concern in the district has been mitigated.”

In addition, McKay acknowledged discussion with the municipality has “identified a number of potential benefits of retaining a two-school model, including introducing more early childhood options and space at Parkview and implementing a specialized secondary school program that would attract and retain students and would align with the overall community development plan including new business initiatives.”

Sicamous Mayor Terry Rysz is pleased with McKay’s proposal, and is hopeful there will be buy-in from the community.

“I found it to be very positive – it addresses our concerns at the moment because it means both schools will continue to be utilized and that’s a positive for us here,” said Rysz. “I’m looking forward to the discussion on the K-5/6/12 initiative.”

McKay hopes the K-5/6-12 proposal will generate discussion in the community so that “decisions made this spring will serve Sicamous – the community and the learners – for many years to come.”

The next school board meeting will be held at Eagle River Secondary, starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Following the meeting, there will be an opportunity for the public to provide input.