While most parents and students are preparing for the end of another school year, the community of Stave Falls is looking to September and the reopening of Stave Falls Elementary.
The big question is, how many students will attend the school?
“I believe currently we are at 44 students,” said Mission Public Schools superintendent Angus Wilson.
That number is well below the 100 students Wilson had previously said was needed for a school to break even. It is also below the 70-plus students that were initially thought would attend, according to a pre-registration conducted earlier.
Wilson said one possible reason that registration is lower than expected could be that many parents have enrolled their children in the Maple Ridge school district and may be reluctant to return because elementary schools in Mission do not offer Grade 7.
Mission offers kindergarten to Grade 6, then middle schools. Maple Ridge doesn’t have middle schools, Wilson said.
“That may have had an impact.”
While registration is low, there are still three months before the new school year.
“Obviously, we will be monitoring that (registration numbers) over the summer.”
Currently, new teachers and a principal have been hired.
The district is prepared, no matter what.
“If there are way more students, obviously we just hire more teachers and we can handle that. We have the capacity in the building to add more teachers and students,” Wilson said.
And if registration remains at 44, or drops, Wilson said the school will still open.
He also said the school board would then have to reflect on what they want to do for the 2020-2021 school year.
“What can we do to effectively market the school to bring the enrollment up?” Wilson said.
Hopes are still high that Stave Falls enrollment will climb over time.
“In the case of Stave Falls, one of the interesting things is that its population is effectively a pyramid. That is to say it has a lot of kids in kindergarten and Grade 1 and fewer up at Grades 5 and 6. That’s promising for the future as those children going through it will grow … So it does look like it will move towards larger numbers.”
To date, the school district has spent approximately $160,000 to prepare the school for the new year.
“The thing is, a lot of the improvements had to happen anyway – in particular, the roof – regardless of whether or not the building opened, just to maintain the physical envelope,” Wilson said.
There will be even more costs to come to prepare the interior for the teachers and students at the start of September.
About the school:
Stave Falls Elementary, located at 30204 Brackley Ave., was built in 1994 and has been closed since 2008. In 2016, the school district announced that it may want to sell the property, which created a stir in the local community. Residents in the area petitioned and fought to have the school reopened.
In March 2018, trustees on the Mission School Board voted to reopen the school with an outdoor, forestry and cultural program-of-choice focus.