BY: KELVIN GAWLEY, MISSION CITY RECORD
“This is not just sad, it’s a tragedy,” said Coun. Jenny Stevens at a public hearing held at the district’s municipal hall on Monday evening.
The comments were made in response to a presentation from Phil Cooper of the Stave Falls Community Group, who told council about continued efforts to lease or buy Stave Falls Elementary School from the school board, in order to turn it into a community centre.
The school, which has been closed since 2008, currently sits empty and unused and is up for sale by the school board. Cooper said that he has not received any response to his queries to the board. He said he wants the school board to keep the school off sales listings and talk with the community about an arrangement that may be made to have it reopen with a new focus.
Speaking directly to the district council and mayor, he said: “We need your support.”
Several councillors and the mayor expressed agreement with Cooper on the issue but were unsure of the school board’s plans.
“We’re as much in the dark as you are,” said Stevens.
The school board’s chair, Rick McKamey, agreed that the relationship between the two bodies is poor.
“It’s been deplorable,” he said, but did not elaborate.
The district is in the process of selling Stave Falls Elementary, along with three other schools, on behalf of the ministry of education. McKamey said sealed bids have been submitted for at least one of the schools and he encourages Cooper to submit a bid or an expression of interest in leasing Stave Falls Elementary.
McKamey said that while a $1 bid would not be accepted, a bid lower than others may be given consideration if it involved a plan that would be beneficial to the community.
According to Cooper, the community wants to use the school for community events and forestry education, catering to children. He said young families don’t have the community infrastructure they need to thrive in Mission and without a community centre, they will be less likely to stay.
“Money and moms are leaving Mission every day,” he said. “We need to turn the tides and have people stay here.”