Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools. (News Bulletin file)

Improving accessibility, reopening schools mentioned in Nanaimo’s school facilities plan

Trustees for Nanaimo-Ladysmith unanimously pass 2021-31 long-range facilities plan

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district officially has protocol that will guide it in terms of buildings and facilities for learning over the next decade.

At a board meeting Wednesday, May 26, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools trustees gave unanimous approval to a long-range facilities plan for 2021-31. The plan offers guidance on capacity and growth, seismic safety and maintenance, environmental sustainability, partnerships, acquiring and transferring of land, accessibility of facilities and governance.

Recommendation 29 advises the district to “review contemplated legislated changes with respect to accessibility and pursue an accessibility audit that reflects current legislation,” while recommendation 30 seeks to allocate money for “short and medium-term accessibility requirements as identified in internal and/or external audits through allocating operating, annual facilities grant, local capital and ministry funding dollars as required.”

Trustee Tania Brzovic was pleased those recommendations were part of the plan and said she has heard feedback that inclusion of accessibility concerns in future planning is appreciated.

“We still have, and we know this, a few schools that are older and because they’re older, the code at the time was not the same,” said Brzovic at a May 19 meeting. “We’re going to have to address some of those issues, like schools where parents or children with wheelchairs can’t get in the front doors and have to use different entrances and how unwelcoming that can feel, so this is good work.”

Unlike past long-range facilities plans, the one for 2021-31 is not calling for any school closures.

Other notable recommendations, see a prioritization of upgrades at Nanaimo District Secondary School and aligning seismic mitigation projects with other work including environmental upgrades and school expansions.

While the plan doesn’t specifically call for new schools, it does state “there may be areas of growth that require a new school including at or near Lantzville.”

It also suggests the possibility of closed schools being re-opened in areas with population increase potential. These include Rutherford and École Davis Road schools and the site of the current Island Connect Ed distributed learning program, formerly Mountain View Elementary.

Another recommendation will see schools being used as “swing spaces” to accommodate students displaced due to seismic upgrade work. Rutherford Elementary is expected to house students during work at Pleasant Valley Elementary expected to start in July.

A draft plan was presented to trustees in February, followed by a consultation period.

The district will establish a long-range facilities plan advisory committee.

RELATED: NDSS upgrades a priority in latest long-range facilities plan

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