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Elementary remains a hot issue in Pouce

Last Tuesday saw a larger than usual crowd in the gallery at the Pouce Coupe village office, as community members, parents, library board members and staff attended a special council meeting to discuss the options going forward for Pouce Coupe Elemen
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Last Tuesday saw a larger than usual crowd in the gallery at the Pouce Coupe village office, as community members, parents, library board members and staff attended a special council meeting to discuss the options going forward for Pouce Coupe Elementary.

While the main focus of the meeting was the school and library, and capacity and potential expansion, the discussion that flowed for over an hour and a half between members of the gallery, mayor, and council, ranged from just that, to how the Village communicates, to how to put Pouce Coupe on the map.

And no, the school is not closing, nor were there talks of doing so. Rather, the school is already at capacity, and with planned subdivisions on the way, council says Pouce is slated to grow even more, with eyes on drawing in families — they need more classrooms.

“If you can’t send your kids to school [here], why would you move to Pouce?” says Mayor Lorraine Michetti.

Before the summer 2018, with the elementary at over-capacity, prospective students were turned away and were offered spots in Dawson Creek, which would require bussing into school from Pouce and area.

However, the Village, School District, and Library Board came together in the summer, and agreed to make a temporary classroom “using up to 50% of the Pouce Coupe Municipal Library space,” which allowed the students to enrol for the 2018/19 school year.

Courtenay Cryne, library director at Pouce Coupe Library, said the change took some adjusting.

“Some of our programs have been more staggered because of the lack of space,” she says. “Kids understand that, parents understand that, it just takes a little bit of getting used to.”

A theme of the meeting was the importance of the library, not just the space at the elementary.

Cryne described the library as the “heart of the community.”

A parent in the gallery said their reason for coming to the meeting was to give support to the school and library.

“My kids go to this school, they are happy, they are structured, they love this school,” they said. “My kids are so much better than what they’ve been in any other school. My kids love that library — that is their home away from home.”

SD 59 has put in a school expansion request to the Ministry of Education for one classroom. An answer is expected in late February or early March.

However, it was noted by many in attendance that the school will need more classrooms. The timeline of getting one built was a concern.

“We’d like to actually — it’s probably impossible — to have it started and another classroom built on by September,” says Michetti. “We want it before 2021.”

Michetti speculated that SD 59 would probably keep the temporary classroom a classroom.

Questions revolved around what is the best course of action for expansion — like whether to build on to the school or to use portables. (Should the Ministry of Education approve the expansion request, it would be a built classroom).

Public awareness campaign ideas were suggested, with both members of council, gallery, and administration saying an effort by concerned parents could go a long way.

However, at the end of the meeting, it was simply discussion.

Pouce Coupe administration officials say that council will likely decide on a course of action after the decision is made by the Ministry.

reporter@dcdn.ca