Nanaimo school district parents concerned about closures

NANAIMO – A group advocating to keep Rutherford Elementary open said it's irresponsible for district to shutter the school.

A group advocating to keep Rutherford Elementary open said it’s irresponsible for Nanaimo school district to shutter the north-end school without provincial funding.

According to the latest facilities plan recommendations, Rutherford could close by June 2017. Some of the student population would transfer to nearby Frank J. Ney Elementary, which would be expanded to accommodate the influx, but with the proviso that the province provide funding.

Trustees must also give approval.

“I think they know that they’re not likely to get funding for that…” said Tina Bray, spokeswoman for Rutherford Open and Thriving. “Rutherford is a well-utilized school. Two out of the three surrounding schools are over capacity. There is no way the Ministry of Education is going to pay for an unnecessary expansion to Frank J. Ney, especially when it leaves SD68 so poorly prepared to deal with the future. It’s plain and simply a bad plan. Let’s hope trustees realize this.”

Another staff recommendation could see the closure of Woodlands Secondary School at the end of June and members of the school parent advisory council hope trustees don’t follow through.

“We hope the trustees go against the [staff] recommendations and keep Woodlands open because we feel that by re-opening Cedar as a high school, they’re in favour of small community schools and ask that the same consideration be given to Woodlands,” said Mary Vassilopoulos, Woodlands’ advisory council secretary.

As part of the recommendation, the sports academies situated at Woodlands would be relocated to Nanaimo District Secondary School, but Vassilopoulos worries about the effect.

“They’re putting all the academies at NDSS and they haven’t removed French immersion (program) … so we feel it’s going to be overcrowded,” said Vassilopoulos. “The only thing they’ve done is closed Woodlands and tried to move [students].”

Woodlands Secondary’s’ council hopes that if trustees do vote to go ahead with closure, students will be allowed to choose schools out of the catchment zone, Vassilopoulos said.

Trustees are expected to debate and possibly vote on the plan this week.

Meetings are planned for today (Dec. 1) and Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. If required, a third meeting will be at the school board office on Thursday at 6 p.m.