A their June 15 board meeting, North Okanagan-Shuswap school trustees voted 4-1 to support, in principle, option E5 of School District 83’s Long Range Facilities Plan. This option includes making the Salmon Arm Secondary Jackson and Sullivan campuses both Grade 9-12 schools. (File photo)

A their June 15 board meeting, North Okanagan-Shuswap school trustees voted 4-1 to support, in principle, option E5 of School District 83’s Long Range Facilities Plan. This option includes making the Salmon Arm Secondary Jackson and Sullivan campuses both Grade 9-12 schools. (File photo)

Two Grade 9-12 high schools in Salmon Arm’s future

Public consultation on E5 option was insufficient, says teachers association

School District 83 staff and trustees can begin work to determine how and when the transition to two Grade 9-12 high schools in Salmon Arm will occur.

At its June 15 meeting, the board voted to support, in principle, option E5, as proposed in the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP).

Salmon Arm trustee Marianne VanBuskirk said it was time to make a decision and it was the board’s role to do just that.

Trustee Quentin Bruns seconded VanBuskirk’s motion to support E5, which went on to pass 4-1. Trustee Marty Gibbons was opposed.

Option E5 would see Salmon Arm’s Jackson campus, currently a Grade 9-10 school, and the Sullivan campus, currently a Grade 11-12 school, each become Grade 9-12 schools.

With the E5 option, Shuswap Middle School (SMS) will continue to offer Grades 6-8. While the LRFP states all existing Salmon Arm elementary schools, including North and South Canoe, would become kindergarten to Grade 5 schools, the school district has released subsequent information suggesting schools in the “greater Salmon Arm area” would remain “at the K-5, K-8, and 6-8 school configurations.”

The school district has stressed none of the proposed changes will happen in the coming school year, and that approving the E5 option in principle gives the school district’s working group some flexibility, including with how the transition is to be structured.

Trustee Quentin Bruns seconded VanBuskirk’s motion, which went on to pass 4-1, with trustee Marty Gibbons opposed.

In past meetings, Gibbons expressed a preference for option E4, in which SMS and Jackson would have transitioned to Grades 7-9, and Sullivan 10-12. With its vote for E5, he said the board was “ignoring what the students have overwhelmingly come forward with,” referring, in part, to a survey conducted earlier this year by Salmon Arm Secondary students. Gibbons said the board was also ignoring concerns of the district parent advisory council (DPAC.)

Feedback received from students and parents was largely in favour of something like E4, with a single Grade 10-12 high school at Sullivan, said Gibbons.

Read more: School District 83 adds new Long Range Facilities Plan option for Salmon Arm

Read more: Salmon Arm students oppose two Grade 9-12 campuses, want consultation

Read more: School trustees leaning towards two Grade 9-12 campuses in Salmon Arm

Trustee Tennile Lachmuth said the feedback she received supported E5, and she commended VanBuskirk for her courage to bring forward a motion that would receive opposition. Lachmuth said she trusts the group working on E5 will find solutions that work for students in the district.

Board Chair Trustee Amanda Krebs said she’d been leaning towards E5, but part of her felt the board could do better. Due to Krebs’ remarks, VanBuskirk amended her motion to add “in principle,” which she said allowed the E5 working group more freedom.

Graham Gomme, local president of the North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association (NOSTA), said the association had hoped the board would delay a final decision until more community consultation had taken place.

Since option E5 was added in May 2020, after the original LRFP consultation process, NOSTA and others requested more time for public input, said Gomme.

An opportunity for further consultation was offered at a November 2020 online meeting, though Gomme alleged poor advertising and the required online nature of the meeting, due to COVID-19, contributed to the meeting’s low attendance.

In May 2021, DPAC and NOSTA encouraged the board to undertake a town-hall style consultation in early fall 2021, said Gomme. This would allow open discussion with community and dispel the public’s perception of flawed consultation since the introduction of E5. Gomme said at that time, the majority of trustees indicated they were in favour of further consultation.

Gomme contended there’s no rush to reconfigure and wants to see options for one and two high schools thoroughly explored and presented to the community before a decision is made. If that happens and a two high-school option is still chosen, Gomme said NOSTA will trust in that decision being fair and balanced.

“It’s going to be hard to back up the bus for people that want one high school, but it is possible,” said Gomme.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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