A group of parents has launched an appeal following the Boundary Board of Education’s recent decision to close Midway Elementary School (MES), according to Walt Osellame, spokesperson for the Committee to Save MES.
Osellame said he hand-delivered the appeal to School District 51’s (SD 51’s) Grand Forks office Tuesday, March 22. The three-page document registers the committee’s profound disappointment, with members calling on the board to hold off on closing MES while a working group of affected parents joins with the trustees and SD 51 administrators to find alternative measures.
“All we’re asking for is a chance to work with the board,” Osellame told The Gazette.
The appeal takes aim at the school board’s unanimous March 15 vote to shutter MES at the end of the school year and then bring students and staff to neighbouring Greenwood Elementary School (GES) in September. SD 51 proposed the idea last November, when Superintendent Anna Lautard told the board that splitting staff and resources between MES and GES wasn’t delivering the best possible learning outcomes for students.
But the committee remains entirely unconvinced.
“We’re saying, ‘What’s the rush? Why are you in such a hurry to close the school when it’s working just fine?’” Osellame said.
The board voted for the closure after two months of public consultations between the school board, potentially affected parents and staff and SD 51 administrators, a process outlined in the SD 51 policy and B.C.’s School Act.
The committee intends to prove that the consultations were neither meaningful nor substantive, even if they seemed to meet the Act’s specified requirements.
Their appeal challenges the board’s decision on nine points, in particular, that SD 51 offered shifting justifications for the proposed closure.
“They’ve hit us with six or seven different issues, most of which we’ve dispelled,” Osellame said.
The committee further maintains that the board never responded to written suggestions by members who offered solutions to the district’s stated concerns.
Osellame highlighted the board and district’s March 10 meeting with parents at GES as a missed opportunity for genuine discussion. It was only then that the school district showed firm statistics in support of the closure, he noted.
Those figures came from several years of data compiled across SD 51 schools. Published in 2019, the data strongly suggests that West Boundary students are disproportionately “vulnerable” across five metrics of childhood development compared to students in the eastern end of the district, though the data highlighted “unacceptably” high levels of vulnerability there as well, Lautard told parents.
Osellame countered that the stats were outdated, while several parents were offended by SD 51’s suggestion that their kids were especially vulnerable.
“You can’t sugar coat it — it’s basically saying that Midway isn’t as good.”
It’s less clear how the appeal will move forward, especially because SD 51 is on spring break until Monday, April 4. A school district policy states that “no member of the community shall be denied the right to petition the Board for redress of a complaint,” but doesn’t specify how the board would consider appeals to its own decisions.
Zitko said last week that she’d not read the committee’s appeal. The Gazette hadn’t heard from Lautard when this story went to press Monday, March 28, though it bears repeating that SD 51 administrators were then on spring break.