We have significant choices ahead of us here in the Boundary communities and the board of education for School District No. 51 (SD51) is seeking your advice and input on those choices.
The board, along with district staff, principals and vice-principals, has been working on developing plans to capitalize on opportunities and manage the challenges that lay ahead of us.
The new BC Education Plan presents significant opportunities for students by building on the strengths of our current education system and working to modernize it to better respond to the unique needs of students.
The five elements to the BC Education Plan include:
- Personalized learning for every student
- Quality teaching and learning
- Flexibility and choice
- High standards
- Learning empowered by technology. I encourage you to view the BC Education Plan in full. There is a link provided on the front page of the school district website (www.sd51.bc.ca).
What about our challenges? We have been fighting enrolment decline since 1996. We have gone from a high of 2,244 students, when School Districts 12 and 13 amalgamated, to 1,376 students today.
Our numbers going forward still show significant decline and we expect by 2014 to have 1,285 students in our schools.
This has been an especially significant concern to us as we see the impact of these shrinking numbers affecting choice and flexibility for students.
At the secondary level, we are finding it increasingly difficult to offer the variety of electives that our students want and at the K to Grade 7 level, we are facing more possibilities of three grade splits every year. We want to be able to offer an optimal educational experience to all students.
The other perennial challenge is funding. How do we best utilize the funding we receive to have the greatest positive impact on student achievement?
The board of education is considering meeting these opportunities and challenges by possibly reconfiguring schools. Specifically, we are looking at the middle school model; Kindergarten to Grade 5 elementary schools, Grade 6 to 8 middle schools and Grade 9 to 12 secondary schools across the district.
The board of education would appreciate your input regarding re-designing our school district for the future. There are a series of four forums planned:
- May 16 at Christina Lake (Christina Lake Elementary School gym),
- May 23 in Grand Forks (Perley Elementary School gym),
- May 30 in the West Boundary (Greenwood Elementary School gym) and
- June 5, also in the West Boundary (West Boundary Elementary School gym).
Start times are at 6:30 p.m. (Detailed information can be found on the school district website).
We are relying on the power of conversation, listening and reflecting through public consultation to help trustees make better and informed decisions as we move forward.
It allows us to be more accountable and responsive to the needs of students and the communities in which we live. I must stress that no decisions have been made; we sincerely want to hear your views and opinions on this possible change.
Additionally, this is not about closing schools. The board continues to be committed to keeping all of our schools open. This is about protecting our schools, offering the best educational advantages and opportunities possible while meeting the needs of students, staff and the communities in which we live.
The board will report out in September about what we have heard and a final decision can be expected later in the fall (most likely November). If the board decides to adopt any changes, they would be effective for school start up in September 2013.
Please join us for this important public consultation; your voice is critical to the decision-making process.
– Teresa Rezansoff is chair of SD51’s board of education.