Students in Invermere will be staying in grade-divided schools for the foreseeable future.

Rocky Mountain School District Six has opted to keep Invermere schools split K-3 and 4-7. The board passed the resolution at their May 9th school board meeting, held at Eileen Madsen Primary School (EMP) in Invermere.

In a letter dated May 10th, school board chairperson Amber Byklum and superintendent Paul Carriere reported the decision to retain the current grade configurations at Eileen Madson and J.A. Laird schools, along with decisions made for schools in Kimberley and Golden, was made after having carefully considered this matter and all input received.

Parents were vocal in their opposition to the plan at a public hearing earlier this year. Parent Chenoa Paccagnan, who has children in EMP and J.A. Laird, says she is pleased that the board listened to the community in making this decision.

I think its best for our community that all our children are educated together, says Paccagnan, adding this way resources for each grade level are kept together as opposed to being divided.

This decision concludes months of studies, discussions, debate, and multiple public hearings across the school district.

Mr. Carriere says one of the issues they wanted to address was even distribution of students. He explains when there is only one option for each grade of students to attend in Invermere, it is a challenge to balance the numbers. For example, there is only one school to send Grade 2 students to, so when there is a bump in enrollment numbers for Grade 2, there is no way to redistribute the children more equitably in multiple Invermere schools.

One of the key facility challenges is how to manage enrollments over the long term with the facilities we have, said Mr. Carriere following the announcement.

However, Mr. Carriere says the board made the decision based on the discussion and input received.

Ultimately there was a lot of pressure on the board because of the input, said Mr. Carriere. When you go out to the public to get their input, you feel a strong pull to respond to that.

Chairperson Amber Byklum could not be reached for comment. However, trustee Denny Neider, a Windermere zone trustee, says there was simply not a compelling case to make a change at this point.

One of the overriding things seemed to be that there wasnt a critical reason to make a change at this time, because the system seems to work right now, said Mr. Neider.

Mr. Neider said there will still have to be changes made eventually, but there are other options that could be explored, such as boundary line changes or expanding J.A. Laird, for example.