Rutherford school tops district’s capital project priority list

NANAIMO – Plan to close school rests on ability to secure money from
provincial government.

With no assurances of provincial money for the Rutherford Elementary School closure plan, Nanaimo school district is looking to cover its bases.

The district approved a motion last week that will see the school moved to the top of the priority list in its five-year capital plan for provincial government funding.

The north-end school is in limbo, as trustees voted last year to close it and move students to McGirr, Randerson Ridge or an expanded Frank J. Ney. However, the plan is contingent on Ministry of Education money for the Frank J. Ney expansion and if that isn’t granted, or construction isn’t expected to be finished by September 2018, the decision will be revisited.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, said the district met with Minister of Education Mike Bernier three weeks ago and he was non-committal on money. If money is not granted, the district will upgrade Rutherford.

“It’s not in great shape, so if the school stays open, we’re going to have to spend some money, so basically what we’re trying to do is cover all our bases … we know that if Rutherford stays open, we need to spend money there, so we’re just trying to check all the boxes and try to get financial help on whichever way they go,” said Rae.

It has been 18 months since the closure announcement and the uncertainty has been frustrating, according to Kathy Schneider, Rutherford parent advisory council member.

“This year, I was already trying to decide, do I move [my eight-year-old son] now, because I’d rather do it in Grade 3 than Grade 7. As it stands, they wouldn’t take any out-of-catchment kids at Randerson because it’s full and I didn’t even ask because I felt like the right decision was to stay at Rutherford … but I sure was factoring it in,” Schneider said.

She said her daughter is entering kindergarten next year and there is no use in enrolling her at Rutherford if it will close.

Rae does not know of a timeline for a provincial funding decision, adding the district and ministry are in continual dialogue.

“They haven’t told us no, but they haven’t told us yes either, so in fairness to the people there, we need to try to get a decision, so we can figure out how we’re going to move forward,” said Rae.