Plan advises closure of four Nanaimo schools

NANAIMO – Trustees will spend the summer contemplating an updated facilities plan that recommends four school closures.

Nanaimo school district trustees will spend the summer contemplating an updated facilities plan that recommends four school closures.

The board previously requested staff review and provide a revised plan and at the June 10 business committee meeting, John Blain, school superintendent, presented the Updated Facilities Plan 2015-21.

Departure Bay Eco-School is one that could be closed by the end of June 2016.

Declining enrolment – the school is seeing capacity of 67 per cent – the aging condition of the facility and the fact the Departure Bay Road site can’t be expanded were among reasons cited.

With 54 per cent capacity utilization, North Cedar Intermediate is also one that could be shut down. In addition to concerns about declining enrolment and aging facilities, it is in a similar location as Woodbank Primary School.

Rutherford Elementary and Woodlands Secondary, slated for closure in previous facility plans, were also recommended for closure, citing the same enrolment and aging facility issues as Departure Bay and North Cedar. Rutherford is seeing 75 per cent capacity utilization, while Woodlands is seeing 85 per cent capacity.

The closures are only recommendations at this point and no decisions have been made.

Trustees have questions and there will be ongoing dialogue with school staff, leading up to a special board meeting scheduled for late August, where a revision will be presented that will hopefully answer questions, according to Steve Rae, school board chairman.

Rae said there will be consultation if schools are to be closed.

Costs and cost savings will be among the things Rae will take into consideration over the next three months.

“Any time you close a school, it’s a big thing,” said Rae. “It affects a lot of people, so we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing and we want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the whole district … there’s lots and lots of things to consider when you do something of this magnitude.

“We want to be thorough and thoughtful and take our time and make sure that we’re doing the right thing here.”

The district has received more than $12 million in funding protection money from the government the past four years and is projecting 2015-16 to be the last year it receives that.

The district had been utilizing that money to offset reductions to programs and staff.