With 100 students more than what was anticipated, the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district is looking at ways to alleviate the burden at the district’s largest high school.
Nanaimo District Secondary School can accommodate 1,550 students, a staff report states. Current enrolment is at 1,657 and projected to grow to 1,680 for the 2023-24 school year and 1,700 for 2024-25.
Prioritizing the upgrade of NDSS is recommended in the school district’s long-range facilities plan. Steps that have been taken to combat overcrowding include limiting out-of-catchment and international students and moving the Nanaimo Ladysmith Schools Foundation office and a district meeting space that were situated inside the school.
Remedial action is being discussed by staff. Expanding NDSS is a consideration, but the report notes it would be a minor expansion, as “1,700 is not desirable.” A minor expansion for Wellington Secondary School could be a solution, but would require other action by the district in order to work.
Re-opening Woodlands Secondary School, which currently serves as a campus for the district learning alternatives program, is an option, but would be extremely expensive and affect B.C. Ministry of Education support for other options, the report said. At the district’s business committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 7, Mark Walsh, secretary-treasurer, called that a solution with “a variety of problems.”
“We have stripped that school down from where it was, so we’d need to put a fairly large capital investment in that facility to bring it back, with cafeteria, shops, all those things that a secondary school would need and then, of course, it wouldn’t be seismically safe,” he said. “You have to put more capital into it to make it attractive, so there are some challenges, let alone the operating cost challenges of a secondary school.”
Students from nine elementary schools – Brechin, Fairview, Forest Park, Gabriola, Mountain View, Hammond Bay, North Oyster, Pauline Haarer and Quarterway – feed into the NDSS student body, so another option would be to add schools to the catchment of John Barsby Secondary or Cedar Secondary.
Speaking at the meeting, Jeremy Inscho, Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union president, reiterated the need to address capacity issues at NDSS.
“It’s obvious that NDSS will be replaced at some point … along with that discussion is the fact that [it] won’t be replaced at a capacity of 1,700 students, so it’s not a fix,” he said. “We will still have these capacity issues in this area with students in the long term, even when we get a new school … we need to have these discussions and find solutions.”
Four portables were expected to be added to the NDSS school grounds for the spring term, but due to delays with the École Hammond Bay expansion, those plans are up in the air, according to the report.
The district is aiming to have a report with recommendations in January, then going before the public for feedback by February.
“Right now, we’re getting ready for the long-range facilities plan committee,” said Walsh. “We’re getting these number solidified about projections, etc. … We want to narrow that down … and come back to business as soon as possible with a plan.”
Further discussion is anticipated at the long-range facilities plan committee meeting on Friday, Dec. 16, Walsh said.