Parents at Rutherford Elementary School protest the decision to close the facility and move students to Frank J. Ney Elementary school. The provincial Ministry of Education has so far denied a plan to expand Frank Ney school

Parents at Rutherford Elementary School protest the decision to close the facility and move students to Frank J. Ney Elementary school. The provincial Ministry of Education has so far denied a plan to expand Frank Ney school

Nanaimo trustees stick with Rutherford school closure plan

NANAIMO – Province denies district money for expansion of Frank J. Ney Elementary.

A plan to close Rutherford Elementary School is still on the table, says a Nanaimo school district financial official.

Last year, the school board voted to close Rutherford and move displaced students to Frank J. Ney Elementary. The school closure bylaw stated it would take place “on June 30, 2017 or later,” contingent on provincial funding to expand a wing at Frank Ney school.

The district listed the project as a priority in a revised five-year capital plan submitted in January, but the province didn’t provide money for it, said Graham Roberts, district secretary-treasurer. It didn’t meet Ministry of Education criteria, which the ministry said prioritized seismic and safety-related projects, he said.

However, Roberts said the province hasn’t outright denied the district’s plan.

“That being said, we’ve had discussions with [ministry] staff and they still see some validness in the business case, so we’re still working on that and looking for other ways for the project to be approved,” said Roberts.

He said the district will include the project in its next plan, unless otherwise directed by the board. He said the ministry has moved the deadline to submit capital plan projects to September.

“It’s still an active file,” said Roberts. “We’re still doing more work to truly define the cost because the original business case is very high-level, so we’re digging down deeper into having a more accurate costing of the addition and the costing of the deferred maintenance at Rutherford.

“So instead of high-level sort of numbers, dig down a little deeper so it provides us with any greater clarity of direction we need to go.”

Kathy Schneider, Rutherford parent advisory committee member, said all the uncertainty is stressful for the community.

“That’s the hardest part, that the kids are left in this limbo not knowing what their future holds,” said Schneider. “They don’t know if they’re moving schools, they don’t know if their friendships are going to be split up … it’s having an impact on the kids, the community and the families.”

The ministry said the district is welcome to submit the project in its next five-year capital plan and given high demand for more student space, priority will be given to areas experiencing “overall rapid enrolment growth.”

According to the bylaw, if the project is not expected to be complete by September 2018, the board will revisit the school closure decision.