District seeks education ideas from public

NANAIMO – Public input sought in school district's strategic planning process.

Nanaimo school officials are looking for public input in the district’s strategic planning process.


Those who haven’t made it to a school-based consultation can participate online.


Senior managers and trustees are visiting every school in the district this month to talk with staff, parents and students about what they would like to see included in the district’s strategic plan.


The information gleaned from these meetings, as well as the online survey and meetings with stakeholder and employee groups, will help staff create a comprehensive blueprint for how educational programs and services will be delivered well into the future.


The online survey is available at www.sd68.bc.ca by following the link to strategic planning.


Online participants will be asked to give their thoughts on things the current system is doing well and areas the district needs to focus on and develop to support student learning and engagement.


Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said meetings at individual schools have not had big turnouts so far – the most was 28 people at Pauline Haarer Elementary School on Tuesday.


“We’re not getting huge numbers at individual schools, but the discussions are quite interesting, quite thoughtful,” he said.


Many people are surprised to learn that the district’s enrolment has dropped by more than 2,000 students in the past 10 years, from 16,000 students to less than 14,000, said Brennan.


Many are also surprised by the number of empty classrooms and buildings either vacant or used for other purposes, he added.


Brennan said thoughts expressed at the schools he’s attended include: concern from parents about consistent services for special needs students; concern about course availability for secondary students, as some schools do not have the critical mass needed to offer all senior academic courses; a suggestion that trustees sell buildings that are not being used for educational purposes; and praise about areas participants felt that the district excelled in, such as the French immersion programs and the academies offered at some high schools.


“That’s all going to fold into an action plan,” he said. “It will be in the hands of our staff to put together the draft report in the summer.”


In the fall, the draft presentation will go back out to schools and Brennan hopes to be implementing parts of the finished plan in November.


Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said all ideas are collected each meeting and entered into a software program that helps staff organize the information.


The information is then sent out on school mailing lists to collect further thoughts and people are asked to prioritize different ideas.


By the end of the process, trustees and staff should end up with a long list of unique, separate ideas and how they were prioritized, said Reimer.


Next month, trustees and staff are meeting with the different employee groups, the district student council and district parent advisory council.


A community meeting takes place June 14 at the Nanaimo Golf Club to gather feedback from local organizations.