Saturday April 19, 2014

Input lacks on Stuart Wood

Once again the spectre of school closure is on the agenda for Kamloops-Thompson school board, this time the target is Stuart Wood elementary.

The district’s plan, as it now stands, is to continue its long-term goal of hosting a K-12 arts school at what is today the John Peterson campus at South Kamloops secondary school.

To do that it plans a series of moves: children who now go to Stuart Wood would go instead to what is today’s Beattie School of Arts elementary campus in Sahali.

Those students from Beattie would then attend the John Peterson building, which would become the K-12 school envisioned by parents and the board.

But that requires thinning ranks at South Kamloops secondary, something proven difficult thus far. The board proposes that students from Pacific Way elementary would go to Sahali secondary, which has declining enrolment.

Unlike three years ago when the district pondered closure of elementary schools, however, the board is skipping elaborate public consultations. Instead, it will receive written submissions on the changes.

The goal, of course, is cost saving. The district, quite rightly, is concerned about the bottom line and using funding on students, not buildings.

But there are problems with the scenario: students from Stuart Wood catchment will have to travel much farther to Beattie elementary, many of them walking several kilometres.

The school district has not been successful at lowering student numbers at SKSS in order to free up space at the John Peterson campus.

And the loss of an elementary school downtown will also represent a loss of life and children’s laughter near the city centre.

The school building itself, given its heritage status, would appear safe. But it will become a lifeless building for at least a period. If City taxpayers take it over, it may become an expensive asset with no obvious utility.

Parents and residents alike deserve more public participation on what would otherwise appear a fait accompli, beginning in September 2015.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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