Outcry over possible school closure

by Andru McCracken


RMG file photo 2016

Whether the McBride Elementary school stays in its current building or ‘co-locates’ with the McBride Secondary School is not on the table for the 2018-2019 school year. But with combined enrolment numbers now dipping below 150, it may be back on the radar in 2019, said School District No. 57 (SD57) Board Chair Tim Bennett.

“At our January meeting the board passed a motion to not do anything in McBride for the September 2018 school year. For September nothing will happen,” said Bennett.

The 2019 year largely depends on how the Province decides to fund rural education, said Bennett. He expects the Province to decide how to fund rural schools by March 2019.

“At this point there has been no discussion of whether co-location makes education or financial sense,” he said.

In 2016, the District tabled the same discussion, citing a $2M renovation bill that would be required to move elementary students into the high school. The District previously stated it would save $150,000 per year by closing the McBride Elementary school building. At that time, Bennett said a combined student population below 150 would prompt a review.

At their February 2018 meeting, the board passed a motion to direct senior staff to start developing a consultation strategy on McBride co-location.

“I understand, and the board understands, that this causes a lot of anxiety and angst in the community,” he said.

In a letter to McBride’s Village Council, Parent Advisory Council chair Karen Dubé said McBride is at risk of seeing the elementary school close in September 2019.

“PAC is frustrated by this recent turn of events at SD57 and is looking for support from Council on this very important issue. McBride will be hard pressed to attract young families to the community if the elementary school is even at risk of closing!”

Dubé, who is also McBride’s economic development officer, said an empty school on Main Street would also undermine current economic development activities.

“Healthy, vibrant public schools are essential to fostering economic growth, attracting new residents and promoting a positive sense of place for locals,” she said.

Dubé said she has little faith the District can “put together a functional and inclusive consultation process.”

When co-location was discussed in November 2016, Dubé went on the record criticizing the board for poor communication.

“How will the community be included in the next co-location discussion?” she asked at that time.