Instead of making a decision between two facility options, School District 83 trustees added a third.
After two hours discussing the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) and recent community feedback, trustees at the April 20 school board meeting voted in favour of adding a new option, E6, for consideration. This would make the Salmon Arm Secondary Sullivan campus and Shuswap Middle School (SMS) both Grade 9-12 schools, and the Jackson campus a Grade 6-8 middle school.
E6 also includes South Canoe Elementary remaining Kindergarten to Grade 8.
Board chair and Salmon Arm trustee Amanda Krebs introduced the E6 option as a way to address some of the public concern about a perceived inequality between the two campuses in E5. E5 proposes two 9-12 high schools, Jackson and Sullivan. Krebs said that inequality doesn’t go away with option E4 – which proposes two Grade 7-9 middle schools, SMS and Jackson. “It just changes which school Jackson is compared to and which grades it affects.”
The discussion began with Superintendent Peter Jory providing some background on efforts to date regarding the LRFP, including community engagement, which he said has included 27 in-person consultations, 284 emails, 15 board meetings, eight committee-of-the- whole meetings, 30 comment cards, two surveys that received 1,235 responses and 195 student petition signatures.
Jory noted the question of two grad classes versus one and the “apparent disparity between Sullivan and Jackson site” are things the board has discussed at length, and that trustees are aware of the issues.
“I also want to say that the process wasn’t really designed to build comfort with the stakeholders,” said Jory. “That would be nice but that’s hard to do. The process was designed to build comfort with the board…”
Regarding cost, Jory estimated option E4 would cost at least $3 million, and possibly up to $4.5 million, while E5 would cost about $1 million.
Prior to the introduction of E6, trustees spoke to the existing options and recent public input, including calls for more consultation.
Salmon Arm trustee Marianne VanBuskirk acknowledged it was unlikely the board would be making a decision at that meeting and suggested a special meeting be held for the LRFP. She also issued a plea to the public to exercise caution when commenting about the Jackson campus as school is still in session.
City of Enderby/CSRD Area E/District of Sicamous/Regional District of the North Okanagan Area F trustee Quentin Bruns noted staff at the Jackson and Sullivan campuses are also divided over the E4/E5 options, with the majority of Sullivan staff preferring the former and Jackson staff the latter.
“I thought this was noteworthy because, from my perspective at least, Jackson as a school has the most to gain from going to an E5 option,” said Bruns. “They would gain prestige, they would gain some money infused into the building. On the other hand, Sullivan would certainly stand to lose some prestige, lose some students and not have all the grads at the school.”
A supporter of the E4 option, Marty Gibbons, trustee for Columbia Shuswap Regional District Areas C and F, said from the student petitions and parent/public feedback, he sees a community in overwhelming opposition to the two high school model in Salmon Arm.
He thanked the students who initiated those petitions, Mikayla Wilkinson and Dayton Massey, and spoke to their concerns of the two high schools resulting in the separation of friends, who he called their “emotional support network.”
“That’s the difference between them going to school. That’s the difference between them not going to school. That’s the difference between them making bad decisions or being supported,” said Gibbons.
With the board’s approval of option E6, Krebs will be seeking the board’s support for additional consultation and another survey.
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