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Trustees revisit secondary education concerns

Trustees resurrected a discussion about the future of Nanaimo secondary schools at an education committee meeting this week.

Last September, the effect of declining enrolment on course and program availability in schools was discussed and the board decided to form a special committee to look into ways the district can still offer a broad array of programs.

Jamie Brennan, education committee chairman, said he brought the motion back to the table because since September, nothing has happened with it due to trustees getting busy with the facilities renewal plan and budget talks.

"My intention is to animate this discussion," he said. "A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then."

Trustees want the superintendent to head up a committee consisting of teachers, administrators, students and support staff that will look at different models for secondary education, such as having schools specialize in different areas, creating more academies, increased online or videoconferencing options and a different model for administration.

Brennan said as enrolment has declined in recent years, it has become difficult for secondary schools to meet the course needs of students – a school cannot offer Literature 12 or Calculus 12 if only 10 students are interested in taking the courses.

But if the district were to 'pair' schools and enable one school to specialize in math and science and the other in arts and humanities, providing shuttle transport to students, there would be the critical mass needed to offer a full array of courses, he said.

"Woodlands is projected to have an enrolment of 400 students in 2018," said Brennan. "The students at Woodlands are likely to be disadvantaged to qualify for university."

Trustees want the committee to begin work in the fall, he added, when a new superintendent replaces Mike Munro, who is retiring after this school year.

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