Appeals from parents to keep their Grade 6 and 7 students enrolled at Silver Creek Elementary have been rejected by the school board.
When Silver Creek Elementary narrowly escaped closure last May, school trustees told parents to help expand the school’s student population in order to keep the rural school viable in the future.
The school’s population did increase by at least 18 students as of Sept. 15, and it appears a few more students have attempted to register since that time. This left the school district in a conundrum.
Silver Creek school now exceeded capacity for its current two full-time teachers, but was deemed by board staff to be too small to justify adding another teacher. The solution from the school district was to require the transfer of the six Grade 6 and 7 students to Shuswap Middle School.
Some parents felt betrayed that after being encouraged to help increase the student population, they ended up seeing their children forced to take hour-long bus rides away from their neighbourhood school. Three of the parents appealed the school district’s decision to the board of trustees, but parents were informed in a letter Thursday the appeal was rejected by the board and the students will not be permitted to attend Silver Creek.
“If we had put another teacher in, the pupil-to-teacher ratio would have been very low compared to other places in the district. We’ve got to be equitable to all the students across the district,” says Bobbi Johnson, school board chair.
Silver Creek parents were especially concerned because their school receives special funding of $157,000 to help supplement the cost of small schools.
“This baffles me,” says Kristie Clark, whose son is one of the Grade 6 students being shifted. “Obviously the government feels that rural schools need more financial support, but our district has decided to use those funds to support urban schools.”
Johnson says funds received from the ministry of education are pooled into a general fund to support all the schools in the district.
“Budgets are not allocated to schools strictly based on amounts generated by the individual school. This has never been a practice in our district,” she wrote in a letter to parents.
Johnson says while the transfer of students to accommodate enrolment is difficult, it is not uncommon.
“The district has to move kids all the time if enrolment exceeds capacity. This is not a unique case.”
Parents says the move will have a detrimental effect on their kids, not only due to an extended bus ride, but also because the students are used to a smaller school.
Ann and Robert Craik, who are raising their granddaughter in Silver Creek, says she used to be a confident student leader. Now, she has become apprehensive, timid and reluctant to speak in class.
“I sat at the meeting (in May) where promises were made. Where we were told to grow the school. Now I’m devastated those promises were broken,” says Ann.