VIDEO OF SCHOOL CLOSURE DEBATE HERE
It was difficult, they said, but School District 82 Trustees determined it was necessary to close South Hazelton Elementary and ET Kenney Elementary (Suwilaawks) Schools. This decision has many complexities and much history to add to the social trauma and serious impacts, which may accompany it.
Hazelton has suffered more severely in the Province than almost any other community. The education ratings are at the very bottom of the pack and the suicide and social dysfunction statistics are at the very top. The communities of the Hazelton’s require attention to these issues and the decision to close South Hazelton seems to be going in the opposite direction.
“I am thoroughly pissed off,” exclaimed Don Intermela as he left the board meeting Wednesday night, “they are focused on the money, not the needs and interests of the community and children. We have a gem of a school in our community and we are losing it.”
Hazelton Trustee Lynne Newberry had a very difficult time voting on the issue. She stated she was not going to obstruct the vote by delaying it, which is all she could do, because she felt her community needed a decision to move forward from. She did however express her concerns.
“We’re charged with student achievement and yet with this motion we’re being asked to close, in fact, our highest functioning school, the one with the best achievement, and that just sits uncomfortably with me, given what our purpose is.” she stated, “[You’ve all read] the statistics we’ve been supplied with from Northern Health that claim 70% of our students are not graduating from high school. So when we have a pocket of success it’s hard to think about breaking that apart. I know the hope is that those students who are doing well where they are in South Hazelton will continue to do well in the other School, but that is a gamble.”
Newberry spoke about the majority of students in the school, who are high achievers, help carry the others along and raise their achievement levels. This she fears will be lost now.
In Terrace the ET Kenney campus of the newly renamed complex Suwilaawks Community School on Loen Avenue, which includes Clarence Michael, will also be closed. This decision entails an entire variety of issues. The remaining building will not be able to house all of the schooling needs and most of the class sizes will be maximized. The Clarence Michael building has recently been renovated to include a unique First Nations Study section and just a few months ago the Terrace Literacy program opened their doors in a classroom in the building.
Now the plan is to have two portables set up to run the music program and the literacy program as the school will be too crowded.
Trustees argued that the portables won’t be that bad and Trustee Penner spoke about working in a program run out of a portable. How the parents will respond to seeing students working and walking, in the variety of Terrace weather, between portables when a fully built school is sitting vacant a few meters away remains to be seen. The health issues of schooling in a portable were only briefly mentioned with Penner stating she had good reports from teachers working out of portables. Superintendent Greenwood suggested the students would only be in the portables for 45 minutes at a time.
At the same time the French Emersion School, Kiti K’Shan, was also being closed however the entire student body and staff are being moved into the brand new school, Mountainview Elementary on Baily Street in the Mountainview Subdivision. The argument made for this decision was to retain money currently held in a trust or reserve fund. Secretary Treasurer Linda Brown stated $217,000 would be forfeited if they didn’t make the decision to use the school before the end of March. Trustee Penner spoke about the actual cost associated with closing the current campus of Kiti K’Shan clarifying the decision would be cost effective.
The savings to the School District on closing South Hazelton were estimated to be $177,000, $40,000 less than the amount the District will get from the Government for opening Mountainview Elementary.
All of these decisions were devoid of much emotion except when Trustee Newberry spoke about the social impacts on the Hazelton community.
What did evoke emotion was an issue raised by Trustee Wu when she spoke about how the PAC would have to raise the funds $2, 437 to pay for the installation of some playground equipment at Nechako Elementary in Kitimat.
“She was stone faced when she voted to close our school and then cried because [the Nechako PAC] had to pay to install the playground stuff.” complained Don Intermela, “it’s just unbelievable, they spoke and debated more about the $2000 than they did about our school.”
Trustee Newberry expresses her worries for the acheivement levels they are entrusted to raise.
On the bright side...