Salmon Arm students are speaking up against a proposal to create two Grade 9-12 campuses.
At School District 83’s April 1 committee of the whole meeting, during a discussion on how to proceed with the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan, a majority of trustees favoured option E5, in which Shuswap Middle School (SMS) continues with Grades 6 to 8, while the Salmon Arm Secondary Jackson campus takes on Grades 9-12, the same as the Sullivan campus. With this option, all elementary schools in the city’s jurisdiction would become K-5.
The alternative was option E4, in which SMS would become a Grade 7-9 school, instead of 6-8, and Jackson would become a middle school, also Grades 7-9. Existing elementaries would become K-6, and Sullivan would be the only campus for Grades 10-12.
Trustees were expected to make a decision on the options at the April or May school board meeting. News of their E5 leanings did not sit well with parents, who have been vocal about it during subsequent PAC and DPAC meetings. It also didn’t sit well among students.
Concerned students haven’t been adequately consulted, Mikayla Wilkinson and other students at Jackson created a petition, giving students a chance to say “yes” or “no” to the E5 option.
“Using the 15 minutes in the morning before school, and one 40-minute lunch cohort at each school… we talked to as many students as we could,” reads a letter by Wilkinson and Sullivan campus student Dayton Massey, which was sent along with the petitions to the school board.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions limiting high school attendance, about 200 students responded to the petition, with about 95 per cent on the “no” side. Several students commented on the social impacts being divided between the two schools could have. Similar concerns were raised for students in the French Immersion program. Another student suggested the division would impact resources and support for Indigenous students.
Wilkinson said students were grateful for the petition and the opportunity to voice their opinion on a matter that will affect them most, and she encourages the board to refrain from making a decision in April to allow more input.
Asked for her preference, Wilkinson spoke in favour of another option proposed for the South Shuswap: the construction of a Sorrento high school that would alleviate pressure in Salmon Arm and make life easier for students who otherwise have long, daily bus rides to and from Salmon Arm.
“Our friends who go to school with us have to ride the bus 3-4 hours a day, if they’re coming from the North Shuswap, and for four years of their lives,” said Wilkinson, noting this can have several deleterious affects on students.
During the April 1 meeting, SD83 Superintendent Peter Jory told trustees, who also supported Sorrento school option, explained it is unlikely there will any funding, let alone shovels in the ground, for this option in a time frame that’s “going to help solve the problems that we have facing us in the next five years.”
In the meantime, Wilkinson and other students maintain the choice ahead for trustees is “too big of a decision to make without very thorough consultation, however long that will take.”
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