Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ education committee has approved a recommendation intended to expand Departure Bay Eco-School as part of the school district’s 2023-24 capital plan. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ education committee has approved a recommendation intended to expand Departure Bay Eco-School as part of the school district’s 2023-24 capital plan. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo trustees look at expansion, accessibility improvements at Departure Bay Eco-School

Business committee recommends seeking seismic upgrade money from province

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is working to expand Departure Bay Eco-School to be able to remove portables there.

The school district previously consulted with the public on how to address capacity issues in north Nanaimo. At the June 8 business committee meeting, trustees passed a number of related recommendations, including one to apply for school expansion as a part of the 2023-24 capital plan. School expansion wouldn’t increase the elementary’s capacity – current enrolment is 400 – stated a staff report, but would allow for five portable classrooms to be removed from the site.

Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, told the News Bulletin the plan would include an application to the B.C. government’s seismic mitigation program, as there are a number of classrooms that need upgrading, and the district is hopeful that could lead to more.

“If we can get approved for seismic, then we’ll start making the case for expansion as well. Ideally, it’s in the best interests of the ministry to approve both at the same time…” she said.

McKay added that the school district would like to improve accessibility at the school and that could be part of the project.

“So there’s a good opportunity there and a really solid business case for taking a good look at the site and seeing what can we do here,” she said.

There have been complaints about parking and after trustee Tania Brzovic inquired at the meeting, Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, said that would be addressed as well, if approval for the project is given.

“We don’t know the extent of what the seismic would look like,” said Walsh. “Maybe the back-end has to get rebuilt or torn down or the expansion’s going to be there, etc., but it cannot exist like that, not just the parking, but the inaccessibility particularly of that rear wing on [Prince John Way] entrance has to be addressed.”

The staff report estimates enrolment at Departure Bay remaining constant between 2021-22 and 2022-23, but according to a 2021 Licker Geospatial Consulting report, the school is projected to be 48 per cent over capacity by 2030-31.

Recommendations for re-opening Rutherford Elementary to service catchment students and restructure boundaries for Cilaire, Rock City and Departure Bay schools, to lessen student numbers at the eco-school, were also endorsed at the meeting. The district is looking to re-open Rutherford in 2024 or 2025. Re-drawing school boundaries for the three schools would be slated for September 2023, but not before more public consultation.

The recommendations will go before the school board at its June 22 meeting.

RELATED: SD68 Trustees vote on re-opening Rutherford school

READ ALSO: Eco-School students don sweaters in energy-saving challenge



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