School staff and board members at the March 14 Fraser-Cascade School District 78 meeting.

School staff and board members at the March 14 Fraser-Cascade School District 78 meeting.

SD78 debates joint use agreement

Joint use of rec facilities, grievance expenses and NITEP were topics of discussion at the March 14 meeting.

The longest Fraser-Cascade School District 78 (SD78) board meeting since the start of the school year with a packed audience including the likes of District of Hope Mayor Wilfried Vicktor and chief administrative officer John Fortoloczky happened on March 14.

Joint use of rec facilities

SD78’s board has requested superintendent Karen Nelson to get dates for a meeting with the District of Hope, Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) and school board representatives to talk about the joint use of recreational facilities. Nelson added that she hoped the three parties can explore their future joint use agreement together.

This item came to the board after SD78 received a resolution from the District of Hope asking them for a meeting between council and SD78.

A second motion raised by trustee Rose Tustian asking for the school board to meet with just the District of Hope was defeated. Tustian argued that the wording in the resolution showed the District’s intention to meet with just the school board.

The joint use agreement allows mutual usage of facilities such as the Dan Sharrers Aquatic Centre and ball diamonds for all parties involved, but it was not renewed this school year. The school board had intended to revisit this some time this year. As a result, Coquihalla and Silver Creek Elementary School students will travel to the pool in Agassiz for swimming lessons.

Vicktor said he received “quite a number of calls” from parents and teachers asking why this is happening.

“I think waiting until June to address some of these issues is a bit late in the game,” said Vicktor, who added that travelling on Highway 7 is “not the safest road.”

However, Nelson said she called schools and only received one concern, and none reported at the board office.

Trustees Cindy Ferguson and Tustian spoke against this. Tustian argued against it based on costs to bus students and that there is a pool in Hope. Ferguson added that the school district needs to give proper notice and have licensed instructors available.

Trustee Tom Hendrickson, however, argued for the benefits of this plan and said he respects the autonomy of schools. The $20,000 originally intended to pay for the joint use agreement was split among schools and they could spend it however they wanted.

Not all principals wanted swim lessons for their students. For example, Coquihalla Elementary has decided to provide dance classes, bowling and yoga instead.

“I certainly don’t want to step on each individual school,” said Hendrickson.

Hendrickson further argued that the joint use agreement has restrictive policies including only allowing 10 students from Two Rivers Education Centre access to Hope’s pool.

“What do we do if we have 50? Which 10? Do you want to go choose them?” asked Hendrickson while looking in the mayor’s direction. “No one on this board is comfortable with that.”

Hendrickson also said students would see the benefits of going to Agassiz, and that people should remember Agassiz is part of SD78’s boundaries.

“It’s nice to have the kids swimming together, mixing,” said Hendrickson. “When they go, it’s like a little field trip for them. So there are pluses to everything.”

Grievance expenses

Ferguson requested information for expenses incurred for a grievance. However, as it involves “privileged information” regarding labour relations and personnel, superintendent Nelson asked for a board motion to release it to trustees and whoever the board chooses to release it to, acting upon legal advice.

Ferguson made a motion to release it, but this was tabled until the April 11 meeting because SD78 wants to find out the implications if this information is released to the public — a concern highlighted by Koopman.

“Is the next part of that somehow that the public has complete intimate knowledge of the investigation? Let them decide whether it was money well spent?” said Koopman.

Tustian said that she needs this information to execute her fiduciary duty and she only wants to know the costs of the investigation.

NITEP still in trouble

The Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP) at Seabird College still does not have enough students to keep it going.

They currently have six students in that program and they need another 17 registered by April to keep it going.

“It’s a struggle,” said Nelson, who added they have held information sessions, solving housing with a mobile home and helping with transportation.

The biggest barrier is the one year students need to spend at the University of British Columbia. Koopman asked whether the UBC components can be done at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Nelson replied that she can bring this to the committee meeting but this will not likely happen by the fall.