Public concerned about AES future

The Gold Trail School Board will vote at their Feb. 22 meeting in Lytton whether to proceed with the process that could lead to the closure of Ashcroft Elementary School, despite an attempt by Ashcroft Trustee Christopher Roden to prevent it.

  • Jan. 31, 2011 5:00 a.m.

The Gold Trail School Board will vote at their Feb. 22 meeting in Lytton whether to proceed with the process that could lead to the closure of Ashcroft Elementary School, despite an attempt by Ashcroft Trustee Christopher Roden to prevent it.

As the report containing the recommendations was tabled by the trustees on Jan. 25, Roden pointed out an error in the document that stated: “The Board will receive the report at a committee of the whole meeting on Dec.10, 2010…”

“This date predates the report [Dec. 14],” he said, stating that it may give people the wrong impression that the Board has known about the recommendation since then.

“The word should have been “review” rather than “receive”, replied Superintendent Teresa Downs

“I’m just concerned about public perception,” said Roden, who felt that the report, A Vision for a Sustainable and Equitable Future for All, should be rewritten and brought back to next Board meeting for trustees to receive.

“I don’t think this statement is significant enough to warrant delaying receiving the report,” said Secretary/Treasurer Lynda Minnabarriet.

School Board Chair, Trustee Valerie Adrian felt that a correction could be made and sent out in a newsletter. Trustee Carmen Ranta also commented that the error, although a concern, could be easily corrected.

The sentence has since been reworded and the report re-issued to the public: “The Board had a preliminary review of the report at a Committee of the Whole Meeting on Dec. 10, 2010. The Board will receive the report at the January Open Board Meeting.”

Roden said he still considers it a flawed document and thinks it should be rescinded.

If the report was to be rescinded and brought to the next meeting, it would add another 30 days to the possible 60-day consultation period, bringing it to a close at the end of May at the earliest, and most likely into June. The Board’s meeting schedule ends in June and resumes in September.

After the meeting, the board answered several questions from the public regarding the closure recommendation, including some from Ashcroft Mayor Andy Anderson.

Anderson said that he’d understood that enrolment at AES was projected to increase in 2013, and he asked if the staff wasn’t being premature in making the recommendation to consider closure.

“I don’t think there was a consensus at our [community consultation] meeting that Ashcroft Elementary close,” he said. “I don’t know what happened in Cache Creek, I wasn’t there.”

“If you want to grow the community,” he said, “grow the students, then the school district should spend its money within the school district” instead of using it for field trips outside of the district such as the ski trip to Sun Peaks for Ashcroft Secondary that was approved earlier in the meeting.

Downs replied that the recommendations were made based on what the trustees and staff heard at all of the community consultation meetings, which were held in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Lytton, Lillooet, Shalath and Gold Bridge before Christmas.

The public was invited to the meetings to give their opinions on facilities and enrolment, aboriginal education and future directions in learning.

“Every board I’ve worked with has wanted to keep a school in each community,” said Minnabarriet. As staff, she said, these recommendations are what we thought was best for everyone.

She noted again that Gold Trail had the fastest declining enrolment of any school district in BC, and the Board is preparing itself for the eventual elimination of the province’s funding protection, which they have been told will be any time soon.