Recent History – 2004-2006
January 15, 2004, By Gary Rusak, Daily News Staff
The sticky proposition of school closures was once again brought up at the regular board meeting for School District 59 on Wednesday afternoon.
“To what problem do we consider school closures the answer to?” asked trustee Gary Moore as way to bring focus back to the issue at hand. Due to what the board calls “school space utilization” and the decline of student enrolment, the closings of both Rolla Elementary School and Dokie Elementary in Chetwynd have been proposed. Public meetings at both schools took place in December. The content of these meetings gave many of the trustees cause for reflection on Wednesday.
“It is a space issue,” said Ian Campbell. “There is no doubt that there is more space in Rolla and Chetwynd than we need. As the schools get smaller and smaller there is also a concern about the level of education.”
However, trustee Betty Gurnsey said that the issue is becoming about a lot more than just the utilization of school space.
“Where things seemed cut and dry going into it, the concerns of parents have brought different issues to light,” she said. “It has given us so much more for deliberation.”
The tumultuous public meeting held at the Rolla School on December 15th focused on many of the community’s concerns.
“It’s a bigger issue than just the school,” said Pat Petersen in one of the many passionate dispositions given at the public meeting.
“The school is our lifeline. It means a great deal to us. I would like you to consider that with this decision you are going to destroy a community.”
Pleas like that one did not fall on deaf ears judging by the tenor Wednesday’s board meeting.
“I have to admit going into this whole issue my head was on a little different than it is now,” said trustee Wayne Ezeard. “If we truly believe that there are better alternatives then we have to find a way to show parents that. So far we haven’t done that.”
One trustee even went so far as to say that it might be a good idea to defer the decision for another year.
“It’s a tough choice,” said Elmer Kabush. “We could afford to keep both schools open for a year. We would have some time to look over all the options,” he said adding that an increase in oilpatch activity could mean more students in the school.
“We are all spending a good deal of time and effort agonizing over this decision,” said board chair Judy Clavier at the conclusion of the discussion.
The board will vote on the closing of both Rolla Elementary and Dokie Elementary at its regular meeting on March 4th.