Strategic plan maps school district’s priorities

NANAIMO – School district's draft plan a framework for improving student achievement, change and possible school closures

Three goals set the stage for actions to improve student achievement in Nanaimo school district’s draft strategic plan, the third of which could mean school closures in the future.

School officials have been working on the plan for the past year and after months of public consultation, the first draft is now complete. It consists of three goals – meet each student’s needs; continuous improvement of instruction and assessment; and enhanced facilities for learning – and suggested strategies to achieve these goals.

“The plan is kind of the over-arching goal and the details are going to be developed over the next period of time,” said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman. “It necessarily is vague to begin with. We’re going to have a frank discussion Monday and likely we’ll ask our staff to flush it out. This is going to be action-oriented. We want to see results.”

The plan calls for development of a 10-year facilities plan by next April that takes into account optimal school sizes at the elementary level of 200-400 students and at the secondary level of 600-1,200 students.

“It is probable that we will have some school closures,” said Brennan. “You really can’t offer the full range of services to schools that are minuscule in size.”

Schools in the optimal size will allow for flexible instructional arrangements, enable more schools to offer specialist teachers, mean better access to student support teachers and librarians and allow more specialized program options, states the plan.

The plan also calls for development of policies to support the first two goals. For example, for the goal of meeting each student’s unique needs, policies would consider, among other things, new learning models, the technology renewal plan, personalized learning opportunities and parent engagement in student learning.

Both policies are to be completed shortly following the 10-year facilities plan.

“This is not going to be a school closure plan, this is to improve the quality of educational programs in the district,” said superintendent Dave Hutchinson. “The plan is a blueprint. It’s going to speak in generalities to the broad direction we believe the district needs to take.”

Justin Green, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said he appreciates that school officials are focused on setting a direction because he believes the district has been rudderless for a number of years, but it appears that the work to fill in the details is still to come.

“I certainly hope teachers are part of the development of these pieces,” he said.

Green said the optimal school size for secondary schools makes sense from a program and service delivery point of view, but he’s not so certain about the optimal elementary school size and missing in the plan is consideration of community support for some of the smaller schools.

Trustees will talk about the draft plan at an open board meeting Monday (Dec. 3) starting at 5 p.m. at the District Administration Centre. Brennan said the board will decide whether to take the plan out to stakeholders for further discussion or approve it.

A copy of the draft plan is available at www.sd68.bc.ca.

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