Public forums on school plan underway

NANAIMO – First of four public meetings to collect feedback on school district's proposed 10-year facilities plan happened last night.

Public meetings to collect feedback on Nanaimo school district’s proposed 10-year facilities plan are underway.

With two weeks left in the two-month public consultation process, school officials are urging people to attend one of the forums – the first of which happened after the News Bulletin’s deadline last night – that are designed to encourage dialogue and discussion about the draft plan, including proposed school closures.

The plan proposes major changes to facilities across the district, including closing a net total of 10 school facilities, rebuilding four facilities, pursuing the addition of enrichment programs to a number of schools, relocating the learning alternative programs, adjusting the French immersion program and relocating administrative functions.

The most immediate actions include closing the South Wellington and North Oyster elementary schools and the junior learning alternatives site at Five Acres at the end of June.

Consultation began April 26 with a separate online public engagement process for each school in the district as well as one for the general public, in which people were asked to share their thoughts on the plan and similar thoughts were grouped together and then the feedback returned to participants to prioritize.

Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman, said more than 7,700 thoughts were posted about the proposed plan and the district has also received about 70 written submissions.

“I think the information we’ve received to date … has made it very clear what people’s concerns are,” she said.

The forums will include a short opening session followed by discussion groups based on concerns people brought up in the online process. People can choose to participate in more than one of the discussion groups.

Reimer said this format is intended to allow more dialogue to happen, rather than the one-way discussion of a presentation-style meeting, and people are welcome to suggest alternatives or bring up points they feel have not been addressed yet.

The meeting for Cedar and John Barsby-zone schools took place last night (please see the News Bulletin’s Saturday edition for coverage) and the NDSS and Woodlands meeting takes place tonight (June 13). Next week parents and community members in Ladysmith have their say Monday (June 17) and the Dover Bay and Wellington-area consultation is Wednesday (June 19).

The board is expected to make a decision on the proposed plan at its June 26 meeting. For more information, please go to www.sd68.bc.ca.