A school that closed in 2018 has once again opened its doors to students.
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has seismic upgrade work lined up for Pleasant Valley Elementary School, and during construction, students are relocating to the old Rutherford Elementary School site, in what the district refers to as a “swing space.”
Currently, 395 Pleasant Valley students are expected to migrate to Rutherford, said Diane McGonigle, school principal. Staff have promoted the move as an “adventure” in order to help mitigate potential student anxiety from being uprooted.
“We have a camping theme – we’re Camp PVS and we’re going to be doing camp-type activities with the whole school, throughout the year,” said McGonigle. “We tried to do a lot of front-loading for our students last year … Everybody did bus safety and for the bus safety trip we came here and the students got to see the school grounds and whatnot.
“We’ve also tried to relieve any anxiety knowing that it’s going to be all the same staff and all the same stuff, just a different building.”
The swing space school is located along Hammond Bay Road and staff will utilize the new learning setting, according to the principal.
“We’re going to take advantage. It’s about an 8-10 minute walk down to the beach from here, so we can’t do that at Pleasant Valley…” said McGonigle. “Our staff came last year and did some looking around in the neighbourhood to look at outdoor learning opportunities. We had someone come and talk about the plants and the ravine going down to the beach and different things we can do here that would be a field trip getting on a bus to go do it when we were at Pleasant Valley.”
McGonigle worries that parking could be a challenge when school starts. While Rutherford was formerly a “neighbourhood school” students could walk to, staff are encouraging families to bus or use Drive to 5-plus, a City of Nanaimo-school district initiative in which parents drop off and pick up children at spots that are between a five-15 minute walk from school, she said.
“They put some signs up in the neighbourhood encouraging parents to drop their kids off and then they walk … we have five different locations,” said McGonigle. “There’s a couple of cul-de-sacs that have little paved paths then that come to the school.”
According to the school district, new classroom space was created by “reappropriating a portion of the library.” Wi-Fi and data upgrades, water bottle filling stations, improved classroom ventilation, furnace replacement and duct cleaning were some of the other work projects that took place.
What a treat to visit our two schools (Cilaire and Pleasant Valley) moving for the year to get seismically upgraded. The care and attention of our staff to make the temporary spaces safe and welcoming for September is inspiring and appreciated @ssaywell @sd68bc @CharleneLMcKay1 pic.twitter.com/nQ3qMUTKml
— Mark Walsh (@markvwalsh) August 25, 2021
School district enrolment is increasing and when asked about whether Rutherford could permanently re-open in the future, Charlene McKay, district school board chairperson, said it is too early to tell.
“The board now has a long-range facilities plan committee, where we can gain access to all of the information, have regular conversations, so that we can monitor enrolment and determine where are our hot spots … our enrolment growth areas,” said McKay. “Then that committee can have some really good conversations and make some recommendations to the board.If we continue to see inclining enrolment, then that will be a conversation at that committee level.”
Cilaire Elementary School is also undergoing seismic upgrades, with students relocating to Woodlands Secondary School, also home of the district learning alternatives program.