Rutherford Elementary School students Haliyah Peck

Rutherford Elementary School students Haliyah Peck

Nanaimo parents begin campaign against possible school closures

NANAIMO - Trustees will decide whether to move ahead with school closure consultation at Wednesday (Sept. 2) meeting.

With the Nanaimo school district board expected to decide on next steps for an updated facilities plan on Wednesday (Sept. 2), parents are voicing opposition to potential school closures.

Departure Bay Eco-School received unanimous school board approval in March to be designated as an ecologically-focused academy, but was also one of four schools recommended for closure. Student enrolment and inability to expand on the site were among reasons given.

Chelsea Slobodan, founder of Save Departure Bay Eco-School, wonders why the school would receive designation only to be closed.

“So why grant a school academy status, which means we can take kids from out of catchment, we can increase our enrolment, we have revenue-generated programs we’re working on. Why would it even come up, is a big concern,” said Slobodan.

She said if people just sit back and don’t protest, the school will be closed.

Rutherford Elementary was another school recommended for closure, with declining enrolment cited among the issues. Tina Bray, co-chairwoman of the Rutherford Open and Thriving group, said elementary school enrolment is no longer decreasing.

“We’ve already closed seven elementary schools,” said Bray. “When you look at the declining enrolment that they’re talking about, we’ve finished doing that at the elementary school level. We’ve levelled off and we’re starting to increase.

“So the fact that we spent the last 10 years closing elementary schools to keep up with the declining enrolment and now it’s increasing? We’re done that … we need to be planning for the future.”

Dale Burgos, school district spokesman, said the district is at a very early stage in the updated facilities plan process and trustees will decide whether to move ahead with public consultation at the Sept. 2 meeting.

“In the event that the board wishes to move forward with school closure consultations, the district will share public meeting schedules, which could begin in the fall,” Burgos said in an e-mail.

North Cedar Intermediate and Woodlands Secondary are other schools recommended for closure.