Julia Renkema, director of the Stave Falls Community Association, told board members that opening the school is the right decision. / Kevin Mills Photo

Julia Renkema, director of the Stave Falls Community Association, told board members that opening the school is the right decision. / Kevin Mills Photo

Fate of Stave Falls Elementary still unknown

Mission school board members, public discuss student enrollment figures, finances

If the Mission school district re-opened Stave Falls Elementary next year, 53 students from kindergarten to Grade 7 would likely attend.

That’s based on the results of a pre-registration held to determine the public’s interest in enrolling their children at the school.

Those numbers increase to 62 students in the 2019/20 school year and 67 in 2020/21.

The figures were revealed at last week’s committee of the whole meeting.

Parents in the Stave Falls area have been trying to have the school reopened for several years. It was closed in 2008.

Julia Renkema, director of the Stave Falls Community Association, told board members that opening the school is the right decision.

“The pre-registration enrolment numbers do not accurately reflect the number of students the opening of the school would attract,” she said, adding that some parents were reluctant to pre-register for fear they would be denied access to the schools their children currently attend.

Many students in the Stave Falls area are attending schools in the Maple Ridge school district.

Renkema also spoke about how local school trustees recently agreed that rural schools are important to the communities they are located in, as long as they are feasible and don’t create a negative impact.

“The only impact that opening Stave Falls Elementary will have is a positive one. More much-needed classrooms, less costly portables, more students returning to Mission schools … When Stave Falls Elementary fills up, and it will, there is plenty of room to expand.”

While parents are pushing for the reopening, school superintendent Angus Wilson said the board has a range of options.

Those options include a complete reopening of the full school, reopening a portion of the school (primary and grow from there), keeping it closed, demolishing the building, leasing to another party or selling the property outright.

A building assessment report, presented at the meeting, estimates it will cost more than $1 million to bring the school up to acceptable code.

That breaks down to about $600,000 to open the school and another $565,000 in delayed repairs.

Wilson said it was important to note that some of the costs for repairs will need to be done whether the school opens or not.

“From a bean counter point of view, the building would be a money loser if we opened it with 50 or 60 students in it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen but just from a strictly financial point of view, that’s the reality of it,” Wilson said.

But trustee Jim Taylor said he had concerns about the financial report and presented his own numbers that indicate if only the essentials were addressed, the school could be opened for just over $100,000 with the rest of the work done in the future.

“It makes more manageable figures when you look at it, if they’re valid,” Taylor said about his report.

“If you believe me, you could basically open on a skeleton system for about $100,400.”

He said there needs to be a larger discussion among the five trustees and staff to look at the priories and talk about it.

“What I’ve heard from the board is we believe in community schools but we also believe we have to be fiscally responsible and look realistically at the cost. So it will take a bit of a lengthy process for us each to come to terms and then, as a voting board, come to terms of what ‘fiscally responsible’ is.”

Staff has been tasked to prepare a new report on the issue to be discussed at a future public committee of the whole meeting.