Parents with students at Departure Bay Eco-School are concerned about classroom space as they say some students are being bounced around as the school awaits a portable. (News Bulletin file photo)

Departure Bay school parents concerned about rotating learning space

Eco-school students being taught in library and picnic areas, say parents

Parents in Nanaimo are concerned with the lack of classroom space at Departure Bay Eco-School.

Nanaimo Ladysmith school district is anticipating student enrolment above a February projection of 13,875, and is looking to account for the extra bodies. Shirley Galbraith said her son’s Grade 6-7 class is being taught in the library, picnic area, patio and a space where garden shovels are stored and was told it may be ongoing until after Christmas break. It isn’t a good learning environment and she said she hasn’t received satisfactory answers.

“There’s no extra support being given to these children who might already have struggles like my son,” said Galbraith. “ If he gets distracted in the same classroom that he’s been in for the last six months, he’s going to be overly distracted bouncing hour to hour.”

Angela Logie who also has a daughter in the Grade 6-7 class has similar concerns.

“I think just overall it’s really disruptive for all the kids in the whole school. To have too many kids, it’s messed up library time, I would imagine if they’re in the library all day Monday and all day Friday, there’s no room for the other kids to be in the library,” said Logie.

Dale Burgos, school district spokesman, estimates it will be four to six weeks for a portable to be set up at Departure Bay. Burgos said the district has to figure out class size in the first week and can’t send out a class list in June because a lot changes over the summer.

The district dealt with an issue of out-of-catchment students for a number of schools last school year.

“You’ve probably seen some of the reports out there, that a lot of the issues are around the out-of-catchment siblings,” said Burgos. “You’ve got kids who are out of catchment and parents would love to get their younger sibling in, don’t want to split up the families, that sort of thing. Of course, the district looked at the numbers … we’ve accommodated those kids. I’ve heard those families are happy about that and we want to make sure that all the in-catchment kids also get into the school. I mean those are the priorities.

“Those who live in catchment get into the school and those out-of-catchment younger siblings are accommodated in Departure Bay.”

Denise Wood, Nanaimo teachers’ union president, said she isn’t sure why the district has a portable shortage, but the issue is one that is affecting the entire province.

Work has to be done to prepare the site, according to Wood.

“I think there are two (portables) in the district that will be delayed…” she said. “One of the issues at Departure Bay is the location of the portable needs to have some excavation work done in order to have a flat surface for the portable.”

When asked if there is any way the district can account for this before the start of the school year, Wood said it is hard to say.

“There’s a lot of fluctuation in student numbers … I think students are still enrolling, so it’s hard to know how easy it is to project student enrolment ahead of time.”

Alana Cameron, Nanaimo Ladysmith District Parent Advisory Council president, said the situation is not ideal, but the district has told her it is currently working to get the site ready for when the portable arrives.

“Departure Bay Eco School is unlike any other school in the district in that such a large part of its teaching principles are based on the environment and being outside,” Cameron said in an e-mail. “I have every faith in the administration and staff at this school to maintain our children’s safety and to keep the disruptions to the kids learning to a minimum.”

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