Recent History – 2004-2006
By Brad Lyon, Daily News Staff
School District 59 trustees approved continuing toward the creation of a traditional school in Rolla, at the regular monthly meeting on Wednesday.
But an existing bylaw to close Rolla Elementary School at the end the 2004-05 school year will only be rescinded if the Parents Advisory Council can secure a registered full time equivalent enrollment of 50 students by a deadline of March 16, 2005. That deadline, which is only three months away, presents somewhat of
a concern for Debbie Pavlis and Deanne Stratuliak, of the Rolla PAC, who have spearheaded the drive to create the traditional school.
“The enrollment number is not a concern,” said Stratuliak after the meeting. “The time frame is, and that’s without a functioning school as an example.”
Pavlis said that the PAC group had expected minimum enrollment numbers as a requirement, but had hoped there would be a one-year phase-in period to show interested families how the school would work. Rolla currently has an enrollment of approximately 37 students.
“Now, we’re asking (parents) to jump in with cold feet, to take a leap of faith,” Pavlas said. “I’m pretty sure we have at least eight just from our area…. We have a lot of parents waiting for this answer today.”
Several families that moved to the Rolla area in the summer enrolled their children in other schools, due to Rolla’s uncertainty, but would move back to the traditional school, Pavlis said.
Trustees also passed a motion to establish, at a later date, the basic operating guidelines for the traditional school. Superintendent of schools Mike Downey said that the school’s operation would be based on “school foundations”, which require compliance with the School Act, and school district and other policies.
As well, a working paper on the proposed terms of the traditional school was circulated to trustees. Those terms will be discussed between the board and the Rolla PAC before trustees are asked to approve them at a future meeting.
But time is running short, Pavlis said.
“March is right around the corner. We don’t even have a parent handbook, and we can’t develop one,” Pavlis said.
The next step is to meet with the PAC, and let them know the conditions. Then, the group will have to start advertising and explain to the public what’s involved.
“But on the positive side, School District 59 is taking a leap in faith as well. This is a whole different ball park. As far as that goes, we’re very glad they took that leap of faith with us,” Pavlis said.
It took over an hour for the final decision to be made. Debate started, but was recessed for about 30 minutes when chair Judy Clavier had to leave the meeting.
Trustees voted 4-2 in favour of an amended motion to create a traditional school. The original motion included a minimum enrollment of 50 students, as well as a minimum of 15 students new to the school district who were not currently students at “neighbourhood schools.”
The 15-student requirement was voted down by a 4-2 margin, with trustees Ian Campbell and Gary Moore voting to maintain that stipulation.
Moore said that it was important to have the new student clause because the original decision to close Rolla, as well as Dokie school in Chetwynd, was based on the issue of excess classroom space in the district.
“It’s not a vote against a traditional school… I see this as a betrayal of the people of Dokie. We’re taking actions that are not based on space,” Moore said, suggesting that the board likely will be faced with having to close another school because of enrollments that continue to decline. “Excess space is going to continue to be an issue.”
Trustee Wayne Mould made the motion to remove the new student requirement. He had concerns about the exact definition of a “not currently attending” student, but more so wanted to see a minimum of 50 students registered.
“I’m not concerned where they come from. I’m more concerned with having 50 students,” Mould said.
Trustee Wayne Ezeard encouraged his colleagues to use the opportunity to take a bold step.
“This school district has always been advocating reaching out to deliver new and sometimes controversial ways of delivering education. We’ve been pathfinders and trendsetters in a lot of things we’ve done,” Ezeard said. “I find this is one more golden opportunity for people to find one more way their children are going to be served…. I think this is a courageous move.”
Downey said that a motion to repeal the school’s closure bylaw would be considered once the enrollment requirement had been met. Also, a motion was passed that a new name for the school would be decided at a future meeting.
Stratuliak said that was a surprise, while Pavlis suggested that Rolla Traditional School would be most appropriate.