Port Edward at risk of losing elementary school

Port Edward not among list of rural schools on the education enhancement list fund.

School board chair Tina Last

The B.C. government has announced a new “rural education enhancement fund” designed to allow local school districts to keep rural schools open that were expected to be closed — but Port Edward isn’t among them.

The elementary school in Port Edward hasn’t been read its last rights yet but currently there are only 11-12 students projected to enrol in the next school year. The District of Port Edward met with the school board this month to discuss their options.

Students will be in a one-room school with students from kindergarten to Grade 5.

Three parents from Port Edward were at the council meeting on Tuesday, June 14. One of the mothers said “A K-5 class is not conducive to my daughter’s education.”

Mayor Dave MacDonald also voiced his concern.

“We’re worried we may not have a school,” he said adding that they’re on the verge of losing it.

The superintendent of School District 52, Sandra Jones, has a more positive perspective on the situation.

“We’re looking at it as an opportunity. We’ve had a few meetings with educators and we plan to make it a robust program for those kids,” Jones said.

The school district has considered having students from Port Edward take classes with other Grade 4 students in Prince Rupert, for example.

“I’m hoping people will trust the process in keeping that school alive,” Jones said.

The school will have Deb Taylor as the main teacher, who was the principal before. She plans to do an information session at the end of the school year to explain to parents how Port Edward Elementary will be a deep learning environment.

One of the challenges for parents and students in September will be transportation. School District 52 had a $1.9-million budget shortfall this year, transportation was axed and students who travel to Prince Rupert for school no longer have a school bus to take them there.

Parents from Port Edward were told two weeks ago that there will be no bus provided by the school district in the next school year, which was the main reason why three parents showed up to the council meeting in Port Edward.

The school will continue to have library support and noon-hour supervision and the school board has assigned a VP to help with preparation and manage other duties.

Still, there is concern that if the district doesn’t raise it’s enrolment there may not be a school for Port Edward elementary students in the future.

The provinces’ announcement this week to save other rural schools from shutting down will help the Quesnel school district, where Kersley and Parkland elementary schools were set to close. Premier Christy Clark announced the fund at a chamber of commerce meeting in Quesnel Wednesday.

Other eligible districts include Okanagan Similkameen school district, where Osoyoos secondary was scheduled to close; Kootenay Lake district, where elementary schools in Yahk and Winlaw were proposed for closure; Bulkley Valley school district, where Lake Kathlyn elementary was scheduled to close; Okanagan Skaha school district, where Trout Creek elementary in Summerland was expected to close.

With files from Tom Fletcher.