Deroche Elementary School avoided closure Tuesday night, but Durieu elementary was not as fortunate.
Angry parents stormed out of the meeting at Hatzic Secondary School moments after school trustees voted unanimously to shut the rural facility’s doors by the end of June, 2011.
Trustees voted 3-2 to keep Deroche open.
Declining enrolment put both schools on the chopping block late last year, but the risks to students, educationally and socially, were too great in Deroche, decided trustees.
The student population of Durieu will now be merged with Hatzic elementary, effective September 2011.
Trustees used eight criteria — such as bus ride times, and maximizing fiscal resources — to aid in making their decisions.
Secretary treasurer Carrie McVeigh said closing Durieu would save approximately $298,000 annually, while shutting down Deroche would trim district costs by $288,000.
And while each trustee said money is not the bottom line in their decision, it couldn’t be ignored.
“We have provincially mandated budgets,” said Trustee Karen Petty. “It sounds a little cold, but that fact needs to be acknowledged.”
Durieu’s traditional status was something parents have said for months was never marketed properly by the school board since the change in 2005. At a public meeting in January, the Durieu PAC said if more support was given, it would bring students to the school.
“I have a problem believing it’s sustainable,” said Trustee Randy Cairns. This sentiment was echoed by other trustees.
“I believe Durieu is the wrong location for a traditional school,” said Petty, while Trustee Carol Hamilton said families move to the Durieu area because it’s rural, not for the traditional model.
Deroche’s lower socio-economic demographic and its aboriginal student composition swayed trustees to keep the eastern Mission school open.
“I will say that I think Deroche is a little different,” said Cairns, adding research shows positive results for aboriginal students when they live closer to their school.
“We risk losing everything we’ve already achieved [in Deroche],” said Trustee Pam Alexis.
Petty and board chair Cindy Miller supported closing Deroche.
“It’s not fair to that school to revisit this in two years,” said Petty.
“This was a very hard decision for me. We have trimmed budgets over the past five years. There is nothing else left to come off. I have to support closing Deroche and Durieu,” said Miller.
Speaking after the meeting, Durieu PAC spokesperson Ian MacLachlan said that while he respects the board has to deal with the resources its given, they made the wrong decision.
“The money saved is disproportionate to the cost to the community,” he stated.
Leq’a:mel First Nation Chief Alice Thompson attended the meeting, and said that while she’s happy Deroche will stay open, she was uncomfortable with the apparent weighting that school’s aboriginal population had on trustees’ decisions.
“There was a bit of an overemphasis of aboriginal in this conversation. I didn’t want that to be the deciding factor,” she said.