Efforts to stop Nampa School closure begin

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Nampa and the surrounding district are making every effort to keep Nampa Public School from closing at the end of June.
Lauren Krahn and Clynton Butz attended the Northern Sunrise County meeting Dec. 14 by Zoom to seek support from council. Both represent the Nampa Public School council.
Butz told council they were attending to gather information and ask council for guidance.
“We feel it will be a very negative effect on our region,” said Butz.
The closure of the school is not a guarantee. Peace River School Division is considering closing Nampa Public School and notified parents and/or guardians with students at the school in November/December, and advised the parent council, says Supt. Adam Murray.
Closing a school is a long, well-defined process no school division takes lightly.
“Reason for consideration of the proposed school closure are financial concerns in running Nampa Public School,” says Murray.
After notifying parents and/or guardians, PRSD continues its fact-finding mission and allows for public input.
“Trustees invite comments, either written or by delegation, on this proposal,” says PRSD, adding the deadline is Feb. 17, eight days before the Feb. 25 board meeting.
At Northern Sunrise’s meeting, council had questions.
“I am looking at their reasoning [financial],” said Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba.
“Did you get the budget?”
“Not yet,” said Butz, adding they were attempting to get the school’s individual budget. Kolebaba immediately asked why they couldn’t get the budget from the principal.
Three Creeks – Wesley Creek Councillor Corinna Williams said the low enrolment might be due to the fact PRSD reduced the catchment area for students. Catchment area is the geographic area a school can pull students from.
“It’s a small catchment area,” conceded Butz. “Maybe they [PRSD] need to revisit the catchment area.”
Two areas cited were Marie Reine and Judah. Council suggested perhaps it would be safer to transport students to Nampa instead of through Judah Hill.
Marie Dyck represents the Ward 1 area [Nampa] on Peace River School Division. She agreed the catchment area was small. She said the problem was busing as students in the Marie Reine, Judah area were bused to Peace River and there was no option to send students to Nampa.
Dyck added PRSH would like to see enrolment over 50 [currently it is around 35]. She surmised the lower enrolment recently was triggered in part by the decline of the oilpatch and some parents moving toward home schooling due to COVID.
“There are 250 [students] home-schooled in Peace River School Division,” said Dyck, adding she was not sure how many would return after COVID.
Large class sizes in Peace River was also brought up. It was thought if some students were sent to Nampa it could alleviate pressure in Peace River Schools and boost Nampa’s numbers to make the school more viable.
Butz said they were gathering letters of support from Nampa and area businesses; many would suffer from the closure.
Cadotte Lake – Little Buffalo Councillor Gaylene Whitehead didn’t mince her words.
“It seems like they’re trying to close the small schools.”
Dyck added a school closure “does nothing for your small community. If you want to shut down a small community, this is the way.”
Instead, Dyck offered advice.
“The school division needs to be asked, ‘What are you doing to keep these small schools open?’”
Kolebaba said her children attended Nampa and was concerned over the imminent longer bus rides to Peace River.
“The thing is, when these people are young, it affects them. They notice that [longer] ride in the morning and at night.”
The group met with Village of Nampa council Dec. 21. They will meet with PRSD Feb. 2 with first reading of the potential closure at PRSD’s meeting Feb. 24. If the board decides to continue the process, a public community meeting will be held before the March board meeting. It is expected a final decision will be made at or before the April board meeting.
Dyck asked the group to meet with PRSD sooner and make a presentation at the Jan. 20 meeting “to put a kibosh by first reading.”
“Maybe a mix of [Northern Sunrise} and the village,” she suggested.
Nampa Public School teaches kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

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