Dates for consultation meetings with parents, staff and students from each of the 12 schools slated for closure next year were set last week by the school district. But most parent groups aren’t satisfied with the amount of time they’ve been given to find alternatives to closing the doors of their school.
“We don’t feel it’s enough time because they’ve been fighting us the whole time,” said Tracey Stilwel of the Hixon Elementary Parent Advisory Council. Hixon is the third of the 12 consultations, scheduled for May 23. She says the district has been stingy with exact figures for utilities and payroll at their school numbers she says are necessary if Hixon parents are going to find a way to make their school financially viable in 2002/2003. “They just give us rounded-off figures. We need those facts and figures exactly. They want us to give ideas on how to save our school and save money and they won’t give us any numbers.”
The public meetings are mandated by the provincial School Act, as is a minimum 60-day wait period before the school board can make firm any planned closures. The district has already issued layoff notices to staff in the 12 affected schools though, in order to meet contract deadlines for layoffs.
Seymour Elementary PAC chair Lisa Martinson is happy with the June 17 public meeting date for Seymour, but says most PACs aren’t happy with the 60-day consultations.
“Sixty days is nowhere near adequate. Nothing can be done to actually implement our solutions in 60 days. You can’t apply for government grants, can’t fundraise or implement a business plan in 60 days.”
Seymour parents are investigating the possibility of a “green schools” environmental grant, and also the chances of becoming a “choice” school with a unique curriculum offering. But Martinson says all of those plans need at least a full year to become a reality and start generating savings.
“I don’t think the trustees have given parents enough time to come up with solutions. There is no doubt in my mind we could find solutions if we had more time,” she said. “I think the 60 days is just lip service anyways. They’re just going through the motions and planning to close all the schools.”