By Nikki Jamieson
The Horizon School Division has a new set of rules on how outside groups can use their schools.
During their regular June 20 meeting, the Horizon School Board reviewed Policy JG — Community Use of Facilities policy — which had received first reading during their January meeting.
“We set a policy around consistent practices within the school division, around cost,” said Wilco Tymensen, Horizon superintendent, adding no changes were made to the policy based on feedback. “The goal and the belief of the board is that schools are based, grounded in the community, and that you want to end up working collaboratively with your community and provide opportunities for services for children and youths and adults within the school, community and school jurisdiction. But you also recognize the cost associated with maintaining your buildings, and when third party groups come in, it’s not about making money, it’s about covering the cost of services that are being needed.”
With community groups using school facilities in addition to regular school use, things can wear out at a faster rate and need to be replaced. Under the policy, a standardized value is implemented so schools are not competing against each other for renters, and a set amount is charged for usage.
“I was on this committee with principals when we developed this. This was a long policy, it took a long time to go through this and there was a lot of feedback from principals in particular, because our schools get used a lot on activities that are not school related,” said Bruce Francis, Horizon board member. “There was some opposition, and there is going to be some opposition. Everytime you change what the kind of standard practice has been, you’re going to find opposition. We’re sitting now at second, second reading on this, so this has gone back out to the stakeholders. I know what we’re going to get shown here, but we knew that when we developed this policy, we know this kind of thing would have a struggle.”
Tymensen said schools were asked to act as if the policy was in place and provide feedback on it. He hadn’t heard anything, and Phil Johansen, associate superintendent of finance and operations, heard back from two user-groups, where the issues revolved around the price of an all-evening versus hourly rates.
Two groups had been renting out different school’s gyms for the evening, and were previously being charged either $30/evening or $35/evening. Under the proposed policy, no evening rates are listed, as a profit-is-not-the-intent group they would pay $20/hour and as a for-profit group they would pay $40/hour, to rent out the gym.
“My comment to them was I’m not about to go above the board’s policy and over-ride this. I don’t know if the board will give consideration at this point or not,” said Johansen. “Again, every time you make a change there is going to be opposition. Certainly, it looks like — I did a rough analysis — and it looks like it could raise their rental cost by, for one program it looks like it could raise it by about $1,500 a year, the other program by it looks like it could raise their costs by about $3,500 a year. Again, cost and business go up. Not just business, but anything you do, costs go up. And sometimes you do have to adjust you fee schedule to accommodate those things.”
However, by his calculations, to break even, those programs would only have to raise fees by about $3-13 a month.
Under the policy, there are three categories:
• Category #1 – Exempt from Paying Rental Fees (note: other fees/deposits may still apply). Include, but no limited to activities of the Board; meetings or activities sponsored by School Councils; meetings of division staff and their respective Union; registered, not-for-profit organizations, i.e. Boy Scouts, Guides, 4-H Clubs; meetings/small social functions of recognized community service clubs (less than 20 people); andgovernment agencies (e.g. emergency services.
• Category #2 – Not exempt from rental fees
Sub-category 2a – Profit is not the intent (User are NOT charging an admission fee or the admission fee is intended to cover the Division’s fees) includes but not limited to large social functions of recognized community service clubs (20+ people); large community functions sponsored by local community recreational commissions; and activities sponsored by non-recognized community recreational commission/community service clubs, i.e. dance or drama groups, choirs and cultural organizations.
Sub-category #2b – Private functions and those users whose intent is making a profit. Include commercial enterprises; private individuals; and all other groups not included in Category #1 or Category #2.
The board passed the third and final reading of the policy.