By Norm Park, Contracted Reporter for SECPSD
The South East Cornerstone Public School division’s board of trustees, voted 8-2 in favour of a motion not to place two vulnerable schools into a full-fledged viable school review process, and made it clear they did not feel it necessary to complete the full process. The two schools in Pangman and Manor offer Kindergarten to Grade 12 programming.
Citing one good reason for curtailing the review process, chairwoman Audrey Trombley said there was an overall desire to remove stress factors involved with extensive reviews of school viability within the community, administration, school staff and students.
A report compiled for, and presented by, director of education Lynn Little during the board’s October 16 open session, stated both schools failed to meet one of the basic requirements, the threshold enrolment number of 88, for schools offering the full elementary and secondary school programs. The report stated that Pangman’s official enrolment recorded on Sept. 30 was 60 while Manor’s was 65.
Enrolment histories and projections, also indicated these enrolment figures were rather static over the years and were expected to remain so for the next six to seven years.
Providing the report was a provincially legislated requirement, said Little in presenting the information and data that included current combined class sizes and arrangements, noting that Pangman currently has 10 students in Grades 11 and 12 while Manor has 14.
She also pointed out the five-year cost structure, the per student costs, to maintain these schools, was above average with the per student cost at Pangman being the highest in the school division at $11,992 while Manor was seventh in the 38-school lineup, at a cost of $9,273 per student. The average per student cost across the division is slightly above $8,500.
In spite of these negative factors, the motion to quash the complete review process, placing the two schools and their communities under more intense scrutiny, passed easily with two trustees Kevin Keating representing Division 4, and Jim Vermeersch, representing the City of Estevan, as the two dissenting votes on the 10-member board that had a full quorum present for the discussion and vote.
Vice-chairwoman Carol Flynn made the motion to reject the review, saying that data was studied prior to her making her decision.
Keating, speaking against the motion, said the enrolment records at these schools for the past 16 years, and the fact they had been on the non-viable list for the past four years, made them more than eligible for review.
“That does not mean school closure, there can be other avenues. I just feel a full review is warranted,” Keating said.
Trustee Elwood White, who represents Pangman School within his subdivision duties, said, “we are still missing a pile of information such as the physical conditions of these schools. Government gave Pangman the green light to establish a day care centre and to build a new kitchen. There was over $500,000 invested in that school that could have been included in the motion along with the school’s graduation rates.”
“We would also have to take into consideration additional transportation costs, bus costs, if we closed them,” White added. He noted that current provincial Education Minister, Gord Wyant, had spoken earlier at the provincial level, noting that closing schools with declining enrolments was not necessarily in the cards.
“Of course a lot of that information comes out if we go into a full review,” said Flynn.
Weyburn city representative Brandon Tichkowsky said, “So many reviews of one school can do harm to a school, staff, community. It hurts the entire community.”
“The reviews have been there before,” said Trombley after hearing all the arguments for and against and calling for the recorded vote that was concluded quickly with no additional commentary following the remarks from Keating, Flynn, Trombley and Tichkowsky.