Parents band together to protest facilities plan

NANAIMO – Parents concerned about proposed school closures in Nanaimo school district are banding together to oppose the move.

A group of parents concerned about proposed school closures in Nanaimo school district are banding together to oppose the move.

Several parents of South Wellington Elementary School students have formed the group Stand Up for Public Education Rights (SUPER) with the goal of not only keeping their children’s school open, but also to raise awareness about what they say are the shortcomings of the district’s draft 10-year facilities plan – the most immediate actions of which include closing South Wellington and North Oyster elementary schools and the junior learning alternatives program in June.

The group, whose town hall meeting last week brought out about 50 concerned community members, is planning to walk from Ladysmith to Nanaimo on May 25 to protest the plan.

“Our group’s goal is to raise community awareness through Nanaimo-Ladysmith about the challenges in education and to fight for our children’s right to a minimum standard of education,” said Tiffany Nelson, SUPER spokeswoman. “The district needs to recognize that the solution to better educational, cultural and developmental outcomes does not lie in different buildings.”

The plan proposes to close a net total of 10 school facilities, rebuild four facilities, pursue the addition of enrichment programs to a number of schools, relocate the learning alternatives programs, adjust the French immersion program and relocate administrative functions.

Nelson said concerns she’s heard about the plan include: the potential for young students to move up to four times throughout the process as schools are consolidated, breaking up peer groups, the academic disruption of moving; the uncertainty students and staff at North Oyster and South Wellington will face given the closure decision will be made at the end of June when school is finished for the year; reduced chances to participate in extracurricular activities; and no mention of any improvement in staffing ratios in classrooms.

She said while the plan mentions adding enrichment programs, this is not costed out or given any sort of timeline like the facilities changes are and the plan doesn’t speak to making extra resources available in classes.

The walk begins at 10 a.m. at 341 First Ave. in Ladysmith and ends at Southgate Mall.

Nelson said she’s not sure how long it will take people to complete the 22-kilometre trek, but organizers are working on creating a map with safe stopping spots so that people can join them for part of the walk.

The group is inviting teachers, support workers and parents across the district.

For more information, please e-mail Susan Toth at susan_toth@telus.net.