It’s June, and that means summer vacation for students and the last meeting of the school year for the board of trustees. But the board heard from two groups who had some last-minute – and big-ticket – requests for support.

Greenhouse proposal

A two-person delegation from the Old Firehall Collective came to the board to ask them to be partners on a project to build a geothermally heated greenhouse on school property. Rosemary Hughes and Karen McMillan said they were hoping to access part of a $200 million provincial fund to enhance community food security. They said they’d like to apply to build a greenhouse heated with geothermal energy and a community garden plot on school land in Nakusp.

Such a facility could act as a “living science lab,” they said, teaching students botany and agriculture, and providing cheap and healthy produce year-round for the community. 

“Just connecting learning to the school is, I think, an incredible opportunity,” said Hughes. “The greenhouse could be connected to the curriculum from kindergarten to Grade 12.”

The Collective figures it will cost about $166,000 to build, with about $32,000 extra for a contingency fund. Ongoing maintenance and operation would be done mostly by volunteers or Collective staff. 

They’ve already received support from the Nakusp and Area Development Board, seniors’ groups and local businesses. But to have a better chance to access funds for the project, they need to partner with the school district, thus the presentation to the board. They asked the board to commit a piece of school property to the project. They would need the commitment sooner than later too, to ensure they can get an application in on time.

The board made no commitment, however. They told the delegation they’ll explore the idea further and perhaps hold a special meeting in the next few weeks to make a decision.

NES playground

A parent’s group also got the same response for an even larger request – for more than $200,000 for a new playground for Nakusp Elementary.

The NES Parent Advisory Council (PAC) recently received a $195,000 grant from the Province for new playground equipment for the school. But in consultation with students, staff and the community, they came up with an even more ambitious play area with even more equipment – looking to add a ‘double glider’ zipline and a ‘gaga-ball pit’ (gaga ball is an updated version of dodge ball) for about $70,000 more.

“We want to have a playground that is inclusive and accessible and meets the diverse skills, needs and abilities of our school population,” they said in a presentation to the board. “We want to build a playground that our students, community children and even visitors to our community are excited about.”

In total, the purchase and installation of the enhanced playground would cost $424,000 – and the PAC has raised $215,000 of that, including the provincial grant.

That leaves a hefty $209,000 ask from the school district, and the PAC delegation were hoping for an answer quickly, to allow them to plan the entire project and begin work as soon as possible. 

But like the greenhouse, the board wasn’t going to commit that kind of money – or even part of it – without more discussion. Again, they said they may hold a special meeting in a few weeks after internal discussions on the matter.

Testing results

District test results of different student age groups in reading, writing and math skills show most SD 10 students are meeting education targets – but also show more can be done in some areas.

“We are doing well, but there needs to be more attention to students who are in the ‘developing’ stage, and move them towards the proficiency stage,” said Peter Dubinsky of the test results. The tests were done this spring.

Classroom teachers assess students throughout the year on the curriculum, with provincial and district assessments in the fall and spring. The data is used to examine trends in student achievement, track groups of students over time, and to help develop educational goals for classrooms, schools, and the district.

“It helps to inform our practice and direction, develop professional learning opportunities for staff, and to hone in on specific areas of focus for students in the coming year,” Dubinsky wrote in a report to the board.

The data from this year’s Foundational Skills Assessment of Grades 4 and 7 students shows most SD 10 students are ‘on track’ in literacy and numeracy. In Grade 4, 76% of students are ‘on track’ in literacy, and 73% are ‘on track’ in numeracy. This is compared to 74% and 63% provincially. In Grade 7, 68% are ‘on-track’ in literacy and 68% in numeracy compared to 68% and 57% provincially

Secondary provincial assessments in Grade 10 show 93% ‘on-track’ in numeracy and 100% ‘on-track’ in literacy, and in Grade 12, 100% of students are ‘on-track’ in literacy.

SD 10’s district assessment numbers aren’t quite an equal comparison with provincial assessments because of the small numbers taking the tests in each cohort, Dubinsky noted.

“The good news is that we know each individual student, and we can provide the necessary interventions and supports as needed,” he told the board.

School calendar set

The board approved the school calendar for 2023-24. The first day of school this fall will be September 5; winter break December 22-January 5; and spring break March 18-April 1. The last day of class before summer vacation will be June 27, 2024. 

End-of-year housekeeping

The board adopted three policies: Policy Development, Community Use of School Facilities, Class Size and Composition. A long-range technology plan was also adopted.

A motion was also passed to inform the Province that the district wasn’t planning any major capital projects for the upcoming year.

“As we say goodbye and offer our best wishes to the graduating class of 2023, we are also excited to say hello to those early learners who are not only entering kindergarten in September, but our earliest of learners who are now attending the Nakusp Child Care Centre,” said Dubinsky, in a final send-off to staff and students for the school year.

By John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 29, 2023 at 11:36

This item reprinted with permission from   Valley Voice   New Denver, British Columbia
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