Nanaimo parents ready to fight school closure

NANAIMO – Update for facilities plan calls for closing Rutherford Elementary.

One group of parents is already fighting the potential closure of its school after Nanaimo school board trustees gave tentative approval to an updated facilities plan Wednesday.

Trustees approved the plan in principle, which calls for closure and consolidation of a number of schools.

Nanaimo school district staff, who prepared the update to the plan, suggested either Woodbank Primary or North Cedar Intermediate could be shuttered in June of next year, with students amalgamated at the school that remains open.

The plan recommends closing Woodlands Secondary School in June of 2016 and combining Learn at Home programs into one location.

The closure of Rutherford Elementary in June 2017, and an additional wing built at Frank J. Ney Elementary, were also recommendations.

Tina Bray, co-chairwoman of the Rutherford Open and Thriving grassroots group, said she was hoping to hear more information at the meeting.

The school district has pointed to declining enrolment as a reason for the possible closures, something that Bray disagrees with based on new developments in her area, such as Linley Valley.

She said she feels development will sustain the number of schools and if that isn’t accounted for, the district will end up with elementary schools that are over the recommended population for an elementary school.

Bray said the Rutherford group will continue to advocate for the school. The group will hold an information session for parents at a parent advisory committee meeting on Sept. 17.

Details on public consultation haven’t been made public yet, but Bray said she wants to see a meeting at the school at a reasonable time when parents can attend, such as the evening, adding people may not feel comfortable at a microphone and there needs to be other ways to contribute.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, has seen both sides of the closure situation, as a former member of the Save Cedar Schools group. He said closures are a difficult thing and said the school board will enlist the aid of a consultant for the forums.

“We are in the process of hiring an outside facilitator who will meet with the board before Sept. 16 and the board will decide, with the facilitator, how the consultation will go,” Rae said.

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