After concerns were raised about problems caused by drug use and homelessness at Comox Park next to École Pauline Haarer, the subject is on the City of Nanaimo’s public safety committee agenda for this Thursday, Feb. 1. (NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Next steps being taken after parent’s needle concerns near school

Parent starts Facebook group, plans to make specific requests at public safety meeting

Parents will have a chance this week to ask for action to address safety concerns around school property.

After a parent spoke to Nanaimo city councillors last week to talk about problems caused by drug use and homelessness near École Pauline Haarer, the subject is on the City of Nanaimo’s public safety committee agenda for this Thursday, Feb. 1.

Alison Evans, who suspects her nine-year-old daughter might have been pricked in the foot by a needle at Comox Park next to the school, raised her concerns at the council meeting Jan. 22 and has started a Facebook page called ‘Nanaimo School and Parks Safety Awareness and Information.’

“I’ve had a lot of private messaging from people who either want to voice their concern or show support or offer help,” Evans said.

On Thursday, Nanaimo school district sent a letter, signed by Tim Davie, assistant superintendent, to parents at Pauline Haarer and at four other south-end elementary schools, saying the district is working with the city, RCMP and Island Health to address concerns about “an increase in homelessness and drug paraphernalia found at your child’s school.”

The letter notes that a long-term plan hasn’t been developed, but short-term measures were implemented two weeks ago including increased custodial hours and private security patrols, and there have been conversations about installation of fencing.

The letter suggested there has been a “decrease in activity” since the short-term measures have been in place, as the school district said that’s what’s been reported by security.

“The district realizes that homelessness, drug awareness and the safe disposal of needles must remain its top priority,” Davie wrote. “The district will continue to meet with our community partners and officials.”

City parks operations manager Alan Britton, in an e-mail to the News Bulletin, said Comox Park is included in a daily sweep of “active hot spots,” which he said turns up anywhere from 20-100 needles per day in the downtown area.

Evans will speak at Thursday’s meeting and said she plans to ask for upgraded lighting and higher fences with locked gates at Comox Park. She also hopes for a new playing surface at the playground as she said needles can be hard to spot among the wood chips. She said parents will determine their course of action based on what happens at Thursday’s meeting.

“Maybe they will come up with some sort of suggestion or plan that they’re going to try to put in place, which of course is our goal,” Evans said.

The meeting is at 3:30 p.m. at the City of Nanaimo Service and Resource Centre.

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