Trustees are considering impacts to Seine River School Division if the province changes it's position on closing and changing school programs in Manitoba. Robert Rivard is a Seine River Trustee and Chair of Manitoba School Boards Association. He says MSBA has drafted a discussion paper. "To start moving forward on use of schools and the school closure moratorium. We don't think it can keep going the way it is so we want to get (school) boards to start discussing what kind of process we should have for boards, the province and students when it comes to school closures."
The moratorium prevents schools from closing due to low enrolment but it also prevents a division from making significant changes to current programming in a school. During discussion he explained to the board this moratorium could impact Seine River if, for example, the division were to consider changing a school from English to French or vice versa.
While declining enrolment is not a challenge in Seine River, he notes in other school divisions some schools are almost empty. "They have almost no students in the buildings and they are down to very small numbers. It would be best for those students if they were in a different school. It would be best for their learning and their opportunities. And it's just a huge cost to keep buildings open for very small numbers of students when there is space in other buildings."
Rivard hopes to get to a common response from school divisions. "A common set of guidelines for what should be followed for school closures or changing of programs in schools. Right now in Seine River we are not looking at closing any schools, we are always looking for space. We are a growing division, as all the divisions in the Southeast are, but there are other divisions across the province that have that concern."
He believes there could be as many as ten or more schools in the province in this situation. "There are divisions out there with declining enrolment and shifts in population, they are moving around. Some divisions need more space while other divisions have too much space. Declining enrolments are more in western parts of the province and rural communities. In the city (Winnipeg) it's moving out to the suburbs so they need space in the suburbs and less space as they get closer to the inner city."
The board has asked administration to review the paper and put forth a recommendation to the board.