North Oyster parents host community meeting

A group of parents concerned about the proposed closure of North Oyster Elementary School are holding a community meeting Thursday (May 30).

A group of parents concerned about the proposed closure of North Oyster Elementary School are holding a community meeting Thursday (May 30) to discuss strategies to save the school.

“We just want to band together, get everyone involved,” said Rene Qualizza, a North Oyster parent whose son starts kindergarten next fall. “Basically, the community will go down because no one will be interested in moving here and businesses will suffer. Kids won’t have any sense of identity.”

The district’s proposed 10-year facilities plan calls for closing 10 schools, including all four elementary schools in the Cedar area, and moving the elementary students into what is currently Cedar Secondary School, with those students being sent to John Barsby Secondary School.

The most immediate actions in the plan include closing North Oyster and South Wellington elementary schools in June.

Qualizza said after the plan became public in April, about a dozen North Oyster-area parents began organizing.

The group has created a Facebook group called North Oyster Elementary School – Save Our Rural Schools, created a petition and staged a protest outside the Port Theatre May 15 during the district-wide in-service day.

Qualizza said parents are worried that the most immediate actions of the plan – closing the two elementary schools – will go forward, but then the plan will stall out.

“The main concern right now is if the plan goes through, all our kids will be crammed into neighbouring schools and then it will just stop there,” she said, adding the previous facilities plan was scrapped after a couple of school closures after a new school board was elected.

Qualizza said the 60-day public consultation process is not long enough for parents to organize and come up with viable alternatives to closure.

“We’re pushing for [trustees] to give us one more year,” said Qualizza. “What are parents to do? They didn’t give us enough time to get together and work on some ideas.”

Wendy Wise, co-chairwoman of the North Oyster parent advisory council, said parents have so far come up with one alternate suggestion for trustees – to close South Wellington elementary and North Cedar Intermediate and keep North Oyster and Woodbank Primary open as K-7 schools – and they are seeking feedback and other suggestions at the community meeting.

The meeting happens at the North Oyster Community Hall, 13467 Cedar Rd., starting at 6:30 p.m.