Parents in Buick Creek are putting together a $5,000 signing bonus to help recruit a teacher and keep their school open for the coming year.
Parents held a community meeting Thursday night where the bonus was unanimously approved to help attract a certified primary teacher.
"The community meeting went really good," said parent Curtis Bueckert. "Even the older seniors came out to show their support and expressed how the school and the local kids are the life of the community."
School District 60 says it has yet to secure a teacher for the three-room rural school north of Fort St. John. It has drafted a contingency plan to send its 17 students to school in either Upper Pine or Prespatou next year.
"The district continues to actively seek teachers for all our rural sites," superintendent Dave Sloan said.
"The challenge to staff is not unique to Buick, but this year the difficulty has become particularly pronounced. Obviously the school parents are very concerned for their students and their school. The district is continuing to do all that it can to bring a satisfactory conclusion to this difficult challenge."
However, parents are skeptical, and worry that transferring students out of the community will serve as precursor to a permanent closure of the school, established in 1960. The school has a teacher for the Grades 4 to 7 class, though that teacher is expected to transfer to Prespatou, where hiring needs are also acute and where there are more students.
Parents worry their children's quality of education will be diminished if they are sent to a larger school with larger class sizes, Bueckert noted.
"We are very proud of all our kids' accomplishments. We have small class sizes, which leads to better quality of education for the children," he said. "Going to a school far away from your community, it's hard to get involved especially with over full class sizes."
Parents are also worried about losing the school as the hub of community events. Transferring to another rural school further from home may also pose a problem for students with extra-curricular activities in Buick, or even in Fort St. John, he said.
It's "very inconvenient if the parents want to put their children in other activities in Fort St. John as both of the schools are very out of the way making it impossible to get there children to there various extra curricular activities," Bueckert said.
"The community feels very strongly that the school needs to remain open, even if that means having a temporary uncertified teacher like Prespatou and other schools already do until a second certified teacher is hired, which there already has been applicants for that type of position."
The building would still be maintained, Sloan said, adding efforts would be made to keep up the its presence in the community through the ongoing use of its arena, as a host site for cultural events, or through an expanded Strongstart program or preschool use, Sloan said.
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