Local PACs get chance to meet with trustees regarding possible Castlegar school closure/reconfiguration

SD20 board chair Darrel Ganzert. - File Photo
SD20 board chair Darrel Ganzert.
— image credit: File Photo

School District #20 (Kootenay-Columbia) held it’s regular board meeting on Monday at Blueberry Creek Community School.

The biggest item on the agenda was the discussion about the possible reconfiguration/closure of schools in Castlegar and Rossland.

In Castlegar, the discussion is whether to close Castlegar Primary School and move those kids to Twin Rivers Elementary.

First reading of the potential bylaw related to reconfiguration or closure is expected to be in mid-February and discloses the language of the bylaw. Second reading, which is when trustees debate the potential bylaw, would follow in another meeting. Third and final reading would be done by the end of February and would be where the nine SD20 trustees would vote on the bylaw.

“Certainly the issue that took the most time, and is the most important to the public is that we included one extra meeting with PACs from each of the affected schools,” said Darrel Ganzert, SD20 board chair. “A group of trustees would meet at each location, Castlegar and Rossland, with the PACs of the affected schools in those communities to have a further discussion about the schools and the potential closures etc.”

Ganzert said that PACs from Castlegar Primary, Kinnaird Elementary and Twin Rivers Elementary would be invited to the extra meeting because one of the scenarios would see students shifted from Twin Rivers to Kinnaird.

The following dates have been set by the board: Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 - Castlegar public forum 6:30 p.m. at Twin Rivers gym; Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 - first reading of any potential bylaws related to reconfiguration and/or closures; Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 - second reading; and Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 - third and final reading.

“We want to get the public consultation done as thoroughly as possible before we enter into any kind of discussion about what we believe as trustees,” said Ganzert. “All trustees believe it’s very important to listen to what the public has to say before we have any discussion about what we believe.”

Ganzert says that even with potential school closures, SD20 will have a large budget shortfall coming up. “Even with the most extreme school closures, we’re still going to be looking at $4-$500,000 of more money that has to be removed from the budget,” he said. “The school closures will not fix the budget deficit, it may lessen the deficit, but there’s going to be a sizable deficit to make up anyway.”

The school district will be looking at making their new budget in March, 2013.

“We will have to look at all of those things - all the things we looked at last year, for cuts,” said Ganzert. “I can’t predict where that will go.”

Ganzert also says the district will have to make up $250,000 for a teacher’s pension shortfall.

“That’s our district’s share - which we don’t have to give,” he said. “So we have to find that in savings somewhere. The Provincial government does that type of thing to us all the time. I’ve been involved closely for about 10 years. And in those 10 years, there’s always a surprise of $250-$300,000 that we have to find in our budget. They’re very good at doing that to the school districts. It’s not good. Particularly, if you believe that education is the future of our province, which I do believe. I hope the public, in the next election, understands where the pressure is coming from to force the school districts to make cuts that they don’t want to make.”



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