Presenters say north-end development should be considered in school closure

NANAIMO - Realtor and developer point to new communities in Linley Valley providing students for Rutherford Elementary.

Potential population increase from new housing developments in Nanaimo’s north end should be considered by Nanaimo school district when deciding Rutherford Elementary School’s fate, says a parent.

Under a district proposal, Rutherford could shutter in June 2017, with low enrolment cited as a reason. Rutherford’s functional capacity is pegged at 317 students and preliminary enrolment for 2015 is 218, according to the district.

Dawn Burrows, Century 21 realtor and mother of a Rutherford student, pointed to growth occurring around Frank J. Ney, Rutherford, Randerson Ridge and McGirr elementary schools. With developments, such as Dunn Place, Oceanview Terrace and the Linley Valley developments, there are many homes, she said.

“I added it up and in total for north Nanaimo, there’s going to be 765 new homes, give or take, within these developments … if you took that number and divided by three, to give you a rough estimate of how many children, that would be enough to fill one school,” said Burrows.

Citing Multiple Listing Service numbers for north Nanaimo from June 2014 through June 2015, Burrows said there were 372 sales of single family homes, ranging from $184,900 to $1.19 million. Twelve half duplexes ($239,900 to $389,900) and 169 strata properties ($99,000 to $549,000) were also sold in that time.

Norm Blattgerste, Mount Benson Developments Inc. director, said his company is working on Linley Park Estates in the vicinity of Rutherford school, with a development permit for 350 townhouses.

Blattgerste estimates 700 people and 100 children will live at Linley Park Estates in the next eight to 12 years. He said the community is slated for growth.

“The real estate prices are such that based on the size city that we are, we have quite a few amenities and the price of real estate is quite low, comparatively speaking,” said Blattgerste. “I think that more younger people, maybe from other urban areas, where it’s more expensive to own a home, are going to come to Nanaimo….”

Burrows and Blattgerste made presentations at a Nov. 4 special board meeting. Steve Rae, school board chairman, said development in north Nanaimo and potential of new students is something trustees will take into consideration.

“We heard what they had to say and we have our people looking into all those concerns too,” said Rae.

No decisions have been made yet on whether schools will be closed, he said. The board expects a staff report on the closure and consultation process at the end of November.