Deb Marshall

Deb Marshall

Nanaimo parents weigh in on school facilities plan

NANAIMO – Public forum also discusses budget priorities.

Half the parents at a consultation meeting at John Barsby Secondary School supported school closures or saw them as a necessity.

School closures were one of the topics discussed during Thursday’s consultation meeting, the second of three scheduled in Nanaimo school district to discuss the 10-year facilities plan.

The facilities plan resulted in shuttering a number of schools and the public forum afforded parents and concerned citizens the opportunity to provide feedback on the plan and 2015-16 school budget.

Half of 10 discussion groups Thursday night supported closures or saw them as a necessity.

Martin Leduc, a parent from Cedar, has seen schools in his area closed and while he’s not necessarily opposed to that, he doesn’t agree with the Cedar closure/conversion project currently on hold.

“There’s difficult decisions to be made and I think that closing schools in a neighbourhood is not a bad thing, but you have to give the community something to look forward to after the bloodshed,” Leduc said.

“We’ve amalgamated all these schools together. We’ve reduced the cost of having numerous facilities and the benefit is you have a larger facility. The students have more access to the staff they need and maybe the equipment and by that extension, more after-school, more community involvement within the structure itself,” said Leduc.

Valentina Cardinalli, a parent with a child at Chase River Elementary, hasn’t had to deal with a closure, but Chase River was a catchment school for South Wellington Elementary’s closure.

Cardinalli isn’t in favour of closures and said the South Wellington children have been fitting in nicely, but closures can cause hardships for students and parents.

“They’re integrating so well in the school, but they’re heartbroken because schools are the heart of a community and the burden of the school closures ends up falling on the parents’ shoulders because it’s a cost in time and money for them to go so far away,” said Cardinalli.

Similar to the Dover Bay Secondary forum, attendees had the chance to identify top budget priorities.

The top three consisted of closing/consolidating schools, re-opening Cedar Secondary School and building a new Nanaimo District Secondary School, with an addendum for consolidating Woodlands Secondary.

The school district is facing a $4-million deficit and the budget is expected to be passed by the end of April.

Another budget meeting is scheduled for Vancouver Island Conference Centre on March 19. Please visit www.sd68.bc.ca.