PORT HARDY—Approval of the budget bylaw for the coming school year was among the actions taken by the School District 85 Board of Trustees in its final meeting of the 2012-13 school year.
Total revenues for 2013-14 are $20,409,459, a drop of nearly $700,000 from last year as
student enrolment continues to fall in the District.
Total expenditures are set at $20,386,710, reflecting a net surplus of nearly $23,000.
A $20,200 pilot project that will link students at Port Hardy and North Island secondary schools via videoconference was approved for the 2013-14 school year.
The Connected Classrooms pilot project, designed by PHSS teacher D’arcy Deacon and Trustee Danita Schmidt, will be used for Science 10, English 10 and English First Peoples 10 courses in the coming year.
With in-kind and on-hand contributions worth $11,200, the program will cost the District $9,000. After presenting the proposal, Schmidt recused herself from from the discussion and vote, which was unanimous.
Earlier this spring, SD85 approved aligning the bell schedules for the two high schools, in part to facilitate simultaneous instruction of students on each campus.
“Declining enrolment in the school district has led to reduction in the number and range of courses/programs offered in the secondary schools,” the authors noted in their proposal. “The primary goal of this project is to be able to offer senior-level courses yearly instead of every other year.”
Classrooms in each school will be outfitted with SMART boards, videoconferencing software and microphones and upgraded PCs, and teachers involved in the pilot project will receive training.
The project will also have multiple reviews, including teacher and student surveys, to determine its effectiveness.
Schmidt hopes the Connected Classrooms project is just the first step in expanding educational opportunities for the North Island’s students.
“This can be much bigger than simply connecting our two high schools,” she said. “Other schools bring in experts from around the world.”
Electoral review scheduled
The new trustee electoral makeup, expected to go into effect in time for the 2014 municipal election, should be reviewed in January 2018, trustees agreed.
Recognizing the board in 2018 may be made up of different trustees than currently sit at the table, members agreed it would be prudent to schedule regular reviews of the board structure after changes, approved in May, go into effect.
The recommended change, which requires ministry approval, will designate three trustees for a “north zone” made up of Port Hardy, Coal Harbour and the current Western Zone, and four more trustees for the “south zone”, with two selected by voters in Port McNeill and two voted on by all other areas in the zone, including Alert Bay, Sointula, Port Alice and Woss.
It would mark the first change in more than 22 years, and was approved only after a series of community consultations and extensive series of debates and failed motions over several board meetings.
The current board believes regular reviews of the trustee electoral areas will allow future boards to stay on top of demographic changes and more easily make adjustments deemed necessary.
The 2018 review will follow the next census, in 2016, and the fall 2017 municipal election.
Board chair Leightan Wishart also shared a copy of the letter he submitted to Don McRae, Minister of Education, outlining the changes to trustee electoral areas approved by the board.
Hot and cold
A potentially costly change to an upgrade of the heating system at North Island Secondary School may have opened the door to a heat-swapping solution that will also benefit nearby Chilton Regional Arena.
The school district received a low bid of $797,000 on the project from Archie Johnstone Plumbing and Heating, but its construction schedule would not have the work finished during summer break. As the nature of the work would have left the school unfit for instruction, SD85 requested the project be split into two parts, over two summers. In response, Johnstone added $100,000 to its tender.
“During negotiations, we were approached by the RDMW, and they have just the opposite problem at the arena. In trying to cool the arena, they generate waste heat.
“Our engineers are looking into a system to capture that heat and utilize it for the school.”
Whatever the district decides, Martin said, NISS is in desperate need of a new heating system.
“It uses the oldest still-running electric system in the province, dating back to the 1960s,” he said. “Somehow it escaped all the previous upgrades.”