Recent History – 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak, March 17, 2005
A traditional school will open at Rolla Elementary in September after a unanimous vote by the School District 59 board on Wednesday afternoon. Although the proposed school did not reach the board’s set threshold of registering 50 full time students by the vote, they were close enough to convince the board to approve the plan. At the meeting, the Rolla Parent Advisory Committee announced that it had 47 full time students enrolled in the program. A handful of those registrations came in just hours before the 1 p.m. session.
“If this was less than 45 than it wouldn’t even be a conversation,” said school trustee Wayne Ezeard. “But, when you come this far with this type of work, I just have to speak in favour and say ‘let’s go for it’. We’ve got to do this.”
Ezeard put the motion on the floor and after some discussion each trustee member approved it.
“We are moving in the right direction,” said trustee Elmer Kabush. “I think the board has reasonable grounds to expect that enrollment will continue to increase.”
The Rolla Elementary School saga began in November 2003 when the board voted to close the rural school at the end of the 2003-04 school year due to excess space in the district. In an effort to save their school, the Rolla PAC proposed to transform the school into a traditional school, meaning that it would have a dress code, stricter disciplinary rules and increased parental involvement. The change was proposed to bolster the school’s enrollment and therefore keep the school open.
In the spring of 2004, the board agreed to give the Rolla PAC an additional year to fully develop the proposal. In December, after the traditional school was approved in principle, the board gave the PAC until March 16 to register 50 full time students or it would proceed with the school closure.
However, to the surprise of the Deanne Stratuliak and Debbie Pavlis, the main organizers of the proposal, the board agreed to the plan even though the PAC fell short of the enrollment mark.
“I am still overwhelmed,” said Pavlis. “When we came in here we were three short, and we knew how important it was for the trustees to have that 50.”
Pavlis credited the board for their “leap of faith” and the PAC for their hard work. “We fought to the bitter end,” she said. “We were phoning families up until the end. We knew it was do or die. I think we had four or five come over this morning. I’m still in shock.”
While speaking in favour of the plan, trustees Wayne Mould and Gary Moore urged the PAC to continue their efforts to increase enrollment. Pavlis said that the PAC and the board are on the same page with regard to that issue.
“Of course, we want 50, we want 60, we want 100 kids,” she said. “The more the better. If we have to put the portables back out at Rolla we will. It is not over, we are going to continue to advertise and continue word of mouth.”
The PAC expects that more parents will come forward to enroll their children now that the school has been officially sanctioned.