Decline in enrolment could close schools in district 91

Due to low numbers schools in Fraser Lake and Fort St. James may face closure

School District No. 91 (SD91) trustees are considering potential reconfiguration, with possible closure, of schools in both Fort St. James and Fraser Lake/Fort Fraser areas.

During the Nechako Lakes school board meeting April 20, trustees made the decision to initiate a 60-day consultation period that will give residents a chance to voice their concerns prior to an anticipated decision at the June 22 board meeting.

Schools that could be impacted in Fraser Lake/Fort Fraser area include Fort Fraser Elementary, Fraser Lake Elementary Secondary School and Mouse Mountain. Impacted schools in Fort St. James include Sowchea Elementary and David Hoy Elementary.

“At this time both [sets] are operating well under capacity,” Charlene Seguin, superintendent of schools, said, adding that at 50 per cent capacity the schools could be fused. “But in order to amalgamate schools the board must give notice, no less than 60 days. During that time community members are invited to offer their input and suggestions to the board for consideration prior to the decision being made.”

Every spring the board looks at usage numbers in schools, projected costs and changes in maintenance. In 2010 both the Fort St. James and Fraser Lake/Fort Fraser communities had low numbers and notice was given then that the board would try to re-monitor student population and capacities by 2012.

“We’ve gone over that a little bit but we continue to monitor enrolment numbers in both communities. In Fort St. James we were hoping Mt. Milligan would add students to the mix but it really hasn’t had an affect at all on numbers,” Seguin said.

The Fort St. James area had 900 students in grades K-12 in 2000-2001 which has dropped to 594 students in 2014-2015. The Fort Fraser/Fraser Lake areas have seen a decline of 664 students in 2000-2001 to 464 students in 2014-2015.

Public meetings for residents are scheduled in Fort St. James for Monday, April 27 at 6 p.m. in FSJSS old gym, Fraser Lake Wednesday, April 29 at 5:30 in FLESS and Fort Fraser Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. in Fort Fraser Elementary.

Board chair Steve Davis said at the meeting that if there is a need to schedule more meetings the board will do so and that 60 days is just a minimum requirement.

Any groups or individuals who would like to make a public presentation at one of the meetings can contact Tracy Austin at the school board office at 250-567-2284 or taustin@sd91.bc.ca.