School District 8/ Kootenay Lake officials and interested Slocan Valley parents and community members gathered at Appledale Hall on October 30 for an update on the Slocan Valley Family of Schools Facilities Plan.

Beginning with the background, Secretary-Treasurer Kim Morris presented the information to more than 20 parents and children.

After significant public protest over Winlaw Elementary School closure last spring, the ministry came forward with a Rural Education Slocan Valley Family of Schools Facilities Plan update Enhancement Fund (REEF), to be released in the current 2017-2018 school year and used for operational purposes only. School District 8 applied for REEF and was awarded a total of $404.000; $357,677 to keep WEG open and $46,947 to keep Jewett  School open in Meadow Creek. The amount of the grant is the same amount it would cost the ministry to close the schools.

Morris said REEF was being made available to preserve schools in small rural communities where students would be displaced if the school closed.
The board plans to access this funding for the schools until it expires. In the meantime, the board is seeking to build capital reserves via the sale of surplus properties.

Six surplus SD8 property appraisals are completed with an estimated value of $1.2 – $1.8 million. The surplus properties include:

Creston Education Centre,

Yahk Elementary School,

Kin Park Property in Creston,

Salmo Elementary School,

Al Collinson Elementary and Gordon Sargent Elementary in Nelson.

The board office on Johnstone Road will be reappraised in the winter of 2017, said Morris.

“It’s a good news story for WE Graham Community School in Slocan. Overall, there was an increase by 20 students over what we thought,” said Morris.
Information in the Facilities Plan will be updated semi-annually, including enrollment projections, property disposal status, capacity utilization, facility condition indices, programming and transition updates, as well as capital planning status updates.

The provincial mandate to restore the 2002 collective agreement is a welcome change, said Morris, but 36 more teachers in the district this year also proves challenging, as space is
extremely limited. Also, the board is not certain how it will impact capacity utilization.

As SD8 continues to monitor and respond to challenges, they are also tendering  architectural services for the expansion projects so they are ready and able to take advantage of possible surplus dollars, said Morris.

The next steps also include forming an inclusive design team with teachers, parents and children as part of the team. Space needs will have to be re-evaluated, property disposal will be monitored, and the board will work with the ministry to customize a design template for the new Salmo K-12 configuration.
Ultimately the aim is to prepare a ‘shovel-ready’ project, she said.
For the full article by Sandra Smith,

see p. 8 Valley Voice Newspaper Nov. 16, 2017