Parents made last minute appeals Tuesday night to try to convince district officials to keep two rural elementary schools open.
The Feb. 15 meeting at Hatzic elementary was the final opportunity to make presentations to the board of school trustees before next Tuesday’s (Feb. 22) special meeting when politicians will decide the fate of Durieu and Deroche elementary schools, which were listed for potential closure late last year.
Ian MacLachlan, speaking for Durieu’s PAC, reiterated points he shared with the board last month.
The Durieu school community wants to work with the board to fully implement the traditional model. The board was loudly criticized Jan. 19 for not promoting the traditional aspect of the school efficiently.
“Closing the school is a false economy,” MacLachlan said. “Closing the school would create a loss of revenue from grants” Durieu currently receives, such as the provincially supplied small community supplement, worth $157,500. The school district estimated approximately $298,500 would be saved by closing Durieu’s doors. MacLachlan pointed out this savings would be reduced by the loss of the small
community supplement, resulting in a maximum savings of $141,000.
Later in the evening, superintendent Frank Dunham said the loss of that grant could possibly be “offset by the declining enrolment supplement.” He warned that while this system is in place currently, it may not be in the future and this is a risk trustees need to weigh.
MacLachlan’s presentation noted all the criteria — including a lack of three-grade splits, the condition of the building and economic savings — used to evaluate whether a school should close does not apply to Durieu.
“Any proposal with this many strikes against, it can’t go forward,” he opined.
“Like other children in Mission, our kids deserve a school in their community,” said MacLachlan in his closing.
The second delegation made similar requests to the board.
Earl Babich, Hatzic Prairie, Durieu, McConnell Creek Rate Payers Association, said the group “strongly believes Durieu should remain open.”
He said it’s the board’s responsibility to listen to the community and while the majority of the association’s members don’t have school-age children now, “they remember the quality education received [at Durieu].”
His presentation included eight reasons the closure should not proceed.
Babich charged that the board did not correctly notify electoral area F of the Fraser Valley Regional District and “allow for adequate opportunity for fair consideration of community input,” as well as highlighting Durieu’s cost effectiveness and that it is unprecedented” to close a school and move the children to the second closest school, which would be Hatzic elementary as Dewdney would not have the capacity to incorporate Durieu and Deroche’s students if both shut down.
Babich also called for a deferral of the motion to consider Durieu for closure until the community can look over the school district’s financial statements, and added trustees should look at other Mission schools, such as Dewdney elementary, to close before Durieu.
The board will render a decision Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at Hatzic Secondary School.