Nanaimo school board chairman Steve Rae welcomes parents to the school district's Your Voice public meeting Tuesday at Dover Bay Secondary School.

Nanaimo school board chairman Steve Rae welcomes parents to the school district's Your Voice public meeting Tuesday at Dover Bay Secondary School.

School board brainstorms on budget

The Nanaimo school district held the first of three Your Voice public meetings Tuesday night at Dover Bay Secondary School.

The Nanaimo school board wants to brainstorm all the ideas it can as it faces budget pressure.

The school district held the first of three Your Voice public meetings Tuesday night at Dover Bay Secondary School. The forums are intended to gather input about the facilities plan and budget priorities as trustees plan for 2015-16.

“We’re looking for input from our partners – from the parents in the district. So this is an opportunity to be heard,” said Steve Rae, board chairman. “We have very difficult decisions to make. We have a big budget; we’ve got a small amount of money to spend.”

The school district is anticipating close to a $4-million budget shortfall as things currently stand, but the province demands balanced budgets.

“So we need to find a way to do it,” said Rae. “That is our challenge.”

With the shortfall measured in millions, school closures are on the table. Rae said the board will make decisions on facilities sometime in April.

At Tuesday’s meeting at Dover Bay, those in attendance identified their top three school budget priorities out of more than a dozen options. Closing and consolidating schools was the No. 1 priority, followed by improving student achievement, then a new high school on the Nanaimo District Secondary School site.

“I went to a bunch of different tables tonight and the input from everybody here was outstanding,” said Rae. “Everybody had lots of really great things to say and we’re going to take it all into consideration. It’s important.”

The next Your Voice meeting will be held at John Barsby Secondary School on Feb. 26 at 6:30 p.m. People can also participate in the process by filling out an online survey at www.sd68.bc.ca or by picking up a survey booklet at the school district’s administration centre at 395 Wakesiah Ave.

Barsby’s parent advisory council will hold a parent-led meeting on the facilities plan March 2 at 7 p.m.

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