COLUMN: Busy days ahead on education beat


Nanaimo educators, parents and students should find the education scene a busy one this fall.

First of all, we have the teachers’ job action, scheduled to start today (Sept. 6) unless a last-minute deal is reached – which is highly unlikely since both sides are still far apart on key issues.

Teachers will still be in classrooms teaching students and I’ve been reassured by the union that parents will be able to talk to teachers about their child. So at first, people might not notice much of a change.

While the union says job action will likely impact students in a positive way because teachers can focus more on planning activities in the classroom, I believe it will, at least indirectly, have negative impacts.

District administrators have to leave their posts to supervise children during recess and lunch and before and after school, which means their work keeping the district moving forward won’t get accomplished as fast.

This fall, trustees and management staff have a number of reports and reviews coming forward that will help shape the future of the district and hopefully contribute toward alleviating some of the problems the district is facing, such as financial constraints, aging infrastructure and equipment and empty classrooms. Staff needs to focus as much of their time as possible on their regular duties.

Eventually, Nanaimo may have to think about cancelling outdoor recess like some other districts have done so administrators can still do their work.

The second major impact on education happening this fall is municipal elections.

It will be interesting to see which current trustees will decide to run again and who has had enough. There will likely be at least one or two new faces on the school board come November.

I hope voters do their research for this election and some interesting discussions are generated at candidates’ meetings.

The election could also mean a flurry of activity in the coming weeks, as trustees will probably want to finish the term on a high note and ensure that projects they’ve been working toward for the past three years are moving forward.

As mentioned above, there are several reviews about to be made public that could have major impacts for the district, depending on what trustees decide to do with the information.

I’m excited about the French immersion report, which should contain some solutions to a few of the district’s facilities problems. Schools that offer French immersion are overcrowded, with students sprawling out into portables, while others have empty classrooms.

It only makes sense to try to distribute students more equally across the district, although whether this means the province will fund school upgrades and replacements remains to be seen.

One project that could finally come to fruition in the near future is the seismic upgrading of Wellington Secondary School, as preliminary discussions with the Education Ministry encouraged district staff to submit an application for final funding approval.

And trustees have already vowed to continue working on the province for upgrades to or replacement of Woodlands Secondary School – much needed not only because it is old, but also because the school was originally built as a junior high.

Staff are also working on a plan to replace the half-size gym at Hammond Bay Elementary School with a full-size gym – also desperately needed unless some of the students are funnelled into another school.

Stay tuned for more on all of these issues.