UPDATE: Nanaimo school board votes to close schools

NANAIMO – Shuttering of Rutherford Elementary School in 2017 is amongst proposals Nanaimo school district's board approved.

Nanaimo school district’s board approved school closures at a special board meeting Wednesday night.

Among the schools trustees voted to close, Rutherford Elementary School. At a business committee meeting Tuesday night, a recommendation to shutter the north end school narrowly passed 5-4.

Trustees Steve Rae, Stephanie Higginson, Jeff Solomon, Natasha Bob and Bill Robinson voted in favour at the business meeting, while Jamie Brennan, Tania Brzovic, Scott Kimler and Noah Routley voiced dissent.

The district said it is facing a $2.7-million structural deficit and Rae, school board chairman, said the decision was very difficult, but the district has to find a way to move forward, which unfortunately comes with school closures.

“The alternative, if we don’t close schools, is to lay off our workers, cut programs, and that affects the classroom directly,” said Rae.

Rutherford closure is contingent on Ministry of Education funding for Frank J. Ney Elementary expansion to accommodate more students, and that hasn’t been approved. Rae said the ministry won’t consider expansion without a business plan.

The district has met with the ministry and while there isn’t money for large capital projects, Ney school expansion isn’t considered that, Rae said.

“So what will happen now is our staff will put together a business case [and] will contact the ministry and the ministry will let us know relatively quickly whether or not they feel that we’re on the right track. If they refuse this, it’s over. The school stays open,” said Rae.

The board also backed staff recommendations to close Woodlands Secondary School, move Woodbank Primary students to North Cedar Intermediate in 2016 to form Cedar Elementary.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com