With consultation underway to address overcrowding at Nanaimo District Secondary School, Gabriola Island parents say they are vehemently against potentially relocating students to Cedar Secondary.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools staff say NDSS is over capacity by close to 100 students and has begun seeking feedback about five potential solutions. Parents have started an online petition speaking against one that would change Gabriola’s catchment high schools.
Travel time for students who catch the ferry from Descanso Bay to Nanaimo Harbour was cited as one reason, with parents disputing a district claim that a bus trip to Cedar was only two minutes longer than one to NDSS.
“It takes approximately eight minutes to drive to NDSS and 15 minutes to drive by school bus to Cedar Secondary,” the petition stated, adding that missing a bus could have a negative impact.
NDSS is more ideally situated, said the petition, as Gabriola students there have access numerous recreational facilities – aquatic and ice centres, running track, Q’unq’inuqwstuxw all-weather field – and other facilities that can be easily accessed via transit.
Adding portables at NDSS, moving sports academies from NDSS to John Barsby Secondary, expanding NDSS and Wellington Secondary and requiring students who opt out of French immersion and sports academies to return to their regular catchment school are other options.
In an e-mail, Carly McMahon, April Vannini and Julie Sperber, part of the group who started the petition, said they feel the best temporary solutions are ones that add physical capacity.
“This issue has been growing for many years. NDSS was supposed to be rebuilt well over five years ago … [it] needs to be rebuilt and needs to prepare for a capacity of 1,800 students,” they said. “We feel that adding portables, and perhaps a small addition, or reorganization of existing space, are the options that don’t physically displace students from their community school.”
Greg Keller, school board chairperson, stressed that no decisions have been made and trustees need to hear from the community to make an informed decision.
“First and foremost, we need to think about student success, educational outcomes for the students, impact on students and families, the impact on our operations, in terms of capacity, transportation,” Keller said. “There’s a whole series of different considerations that need to go into this and it is a challenging decision, not something that we take lightly.”
An open house will be held at Gabriola Elementary’s gym Thursday, Feb. 16, from 5:30-7 p.m. and there will be an online session on Tuesday, Feb. 21, from 5-6 p.m.
Feedback will be accepted until Feb. 28, with a report anticipated for March. For more information, visit www.sd68.bc.ca/board/ndss-consultation/.
The petition is viewable at shorturl.at/bGQRY.
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