Trying to cut $1.1-million from a $26-million annual operating budget is a daunting proposition for any organization.
That’s even more the case when the cuts will impact a critically important segment of society like young people in the education system. Nobody envies the School District 64 school trustees or administrators tasked with the job of reconfiguring the school district in order to save those funds. Last Wednesday the board voted to pursue a path that has proven controversial to some degree but has also received significant public support and is the best path forward.
The new plan is dramatically different from the status quo, with Salt Spring Island Middle School eliminated and a return to elementary schools with children in Kindergarten through Grade 7. SIMS has housed Salt Spring’s grades 6-8 students since 1994, when the new Gulf Islands Secondary School was opened.
We must ask, though, if it makes financial sense to keep SIMS open for another year solely to serve students who are currently in Grade 6 there so they do not to have return to an elementary school in Grade 7. Those students will surely not be scarred by receiving their instruction at an institution they had left two years previously.
Attracting more controversy to date, though, is a plan to create a “hub” for students who live on Galiano, Mayne, Saturna and Pender islands to attend Pender Islands school for Grade 8 and 9, instead of coming to Gulf Islands Secondary School for those two years.
It is understandable that many parents on those islands would prefer their children be at Salt Spring’s high school where they will likely have access to more educational and extracurricular activities, as well as a broader social circle. Parents will always want the best education possible for their children, but must trust that the school district board and administrators want that as well.
Commitment to make the best possible Pender high school program is strong, and Salt Spring students will even be allowed to enrol if they want to do so.
Change is always difficult to plan for and accept, but our school district has done its best with the challenging hand it was dealt.