Proposed Silver Creek, Armstrong school closures have parents upset

“I hear this, ‘why should I care about some small school? You choose to live there,’” parent says. “Well, on an extreme note, the same could be said about all small towns in B.C. Why don’t we just have one metropolis and just work camps everywhere?”

District voted to consult on closing Silver Creek School, Armstrong Elementary

Armstrong Elementary is one of two schools that School District 83 has voted to close. (Google Street View)

The seemingly inevitable closure of two rural elementary schools in Armstrong and Silver Creek have local parents concerned for their children's educational future.

Noah Ralston, a parent of a Silver Creek School student, has been fighting to keep that school open for years.

However, the local school district voted to consult parents on a plan to close that school and Armstrong Elementary last night at a packed board meeting.

Ralston's child, and the rest of the students at Silver Creek, will be sent to Salmon Arm West, which Ralston calls a "wonderful" school. However, he thinks it won't be right for the Silver Creek kids.

"We're not looking at, say, merging two schools that are near each other in the same community," he told Radio West host Rebecca Zandbergen. "This is removing children from one community to a different community."

Ralston agrees that the school board has been pressured by "underfunding" of the school system, but says the district could have made better choices, such as reducing administration.

He is concerned that as students go to new schools, they will not thrive as they have in familiar environments. He says many parents in similar situations have opted to simply homeschool their children or go to independent schools.

"I hear this, 'why should I care about some small school? You choose to live there,'" he said. "Well, on an extreme note, the same could be said about all small towns in B.C. Why don't we just have one metropolis and just work camps everywhere?"

District 83 cites financial challenges

School District 83 superintendent Glen Borthistle, who is responsible for the schools, says the district is facing financial challenges along with an excess capacity of 2,000 seats.

"It's really a matter of consolidating our available space to be as efficient as we can," he said. "What we're finding a real challenge is delivering an equitable service across the entire district."

"When we look at moving schools and consolidating schools in the case of Silver Creek in this proposal, we would be able to provide more service to the students in that school."

Borthistle says that with so many schools with small enrolment, counselors and special education assistant staff are often unavailable.

He also says the district is going to hear from parents for the next 60 days to look at alternatives.

"There's a tremendous community value to these schools," he said. "In a smaller, rural community, many of the schools are really the heart of the community, being the only institution in that area."

"You lose some of the heart of the community when you make proposals like this. I think every one of our trustees understands that."

To hear the interview with parent Noah Ralston, click the audio labelled: Parents concerned about what rural school closures will mean for student

To hear the interview with School District 83 superintendent Glen Borthistle, click the audio labelled: School District 83 superintendent talks school closures


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