The future of Creston Valley schools remains uncertain following tonight’s School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) board meeting, which added amendments to the district’s draft reconfiguration plan.
Approved were the considerations of the permanent closure of Yahk Elementary School (YES), which has no students enrolled for 2016-17, and the closure of the Creston Education Centre (CEC), pending the outcome of negotiations for a possible sale (both the Regional District of Central Kootenay and Town of Creston have expressed interest in, though not specifically the purchase of, the facility in letters to the board).
Both amendments to the draft plan presented last month — which narrowed down options presented in February — were proposed by Creston trustee Heather Suttie, with Creston’s Rebecca Huscroft recommending, should the CEC close, the subsequent move of Homelinks to Prince Charles Secondary School, and Wildflower School and Strong Start to Adam Robertson Elementary School.
In addition to the SD8 programs, the CEC is the home of Family Place and early years programs run by Valley Community Services, which would require new premises in the event of a closure.
“I feel confident because this is a consideration,” said Huscroft, who added she’s looking forward to further consultation with the public.
The amendment to the plan also included the potential closures of Winlaw, Jewett (Meadow Creek) and Salmo elementary schools, and Nelson’s Trafalgar Middle School, and other options for West Kootenay schools.
The inclusion of several options led Creston trustee Cody Beebe and trustees Bill Maslechko and Sharon Nazaroff to abstain from approving the amendments.
“There are parts I can support and parts I can’t, so I’ll be voting against this,” said Beebe, whose earlier motion to maintain status quo at the CEC failed.
The decision to consider permanently closing YES came after the board unanimously voted for the temporary closure of the building next year.
“My heart goes out to the community of Yahk that we’re considering this, but with the projected enrolment of zero students, it’s the right thing to do,” said Huscroft.
The decision for the board to approve the facilities draft plan was expected to come tonight, but was delayed 60 days, until July 5, when the bylaw will receive two readings and be debated.
The delay came after consultation today with the board’s legal counsel, which recommended that trustees refrain from stating their opinions during the process, which would render them unable to continue discussing the reconfiguration plan.
Chair Lenora Trenaman said there is a policy to follow, and “part of the package is trustees need to have an open mind. … We’ll still have conversation and debate, but not today.”