The Kamloops-Thompson school board is giving Westwold elementary another chance at remaining a community school.
Trustees voted unanimously on Monday night to keep the school open as long as it has at least six students enrolled by the end of September. Westwold will also be reconfigured to a kindergarten to Grade 7 school from its current kindergarten to Grade 4 model.
Trustee Joe Small said he liked the motion because it shows trustees have listened to the community 45 minutes west of Kamloops on Highway 97.
“Now the responsibility shifts to Westwold to come up with six students to keep the school open,” Small said.
Board vice-chair Rhonda Kershaw said she was concerned parents may no longer support “small, one-room schools,” but opted to vote in favour as she believes Westwold elementary deserve a chance to stay open.
The school district shuttered the rural, single-teacher school last fall when no children enrolled for the 2018-2019 school year. Of the eight students who had attended Westwold elementary the year before, almost all enrolled at Robert L. Clemitson elementary in Barnhartvale for the current school year.
If the six-student quota isn’t met by the end of September, Westwold will be closed and any students committed to the school will be transferred to Clemitson.
With six students in attendance, the district receives enough provincial funding to break even on its costs to run the school.
Public consultation with Westwold parents of school-aged children showed there were three families representing six students who would commit to sending their children to the school next year under a K-7 model.
“Why that [the extra grades] was a deciding factor for the families was because that allowed them to have their kids in one school instead of two,” assistant superintendent Rob Schoen told KTW, noting there was not a lot of interest in the K-4 model.
The school district conducted a two-month public consultation process, beginning with a community meeting last November, at which most of the 28 people in attendance expressed a desire to see the school remain operational in some capacity, such as by being converted to a specialized school. All of the six comments received online also expressed a desire to keep the school open.
Under district policy, the creation of a specialized school needs to come from a community initiative in which a detailed plan is presented — a move the community could still spearhead now that the facility will remain open.
Westwold elementary became a K-4 school in 2010 due to declining enrolment, Schoen said.
School district statistics show enrolment dropping to 18 students in 2010-2011 from 42 in 2006-2007.
A staff report prepared for trustees following the public consultation process listed reducing long bus rides, an alternative to homeschooling and maintaining a facility that can be used for community events as benefits of keeping the school open.
The report presented the board with two options — close the school or keep it open — with staff recommending it remain open.