Keeping Rutherford Elementary School open wasn’t in the budget, and now closing it might not be in the budget, either.
Nanaimo school trustees could have decisions to make, and maybe hard choices, as they may be forced to rethink aspects of their facilities plan. The school district still hasn’t received any money from the B.C. Ministry of Education for capacity upgrades to Frank J. Ney Elementary and there are no signs that money is forthcoming. This is a serious indication that somewhere along the way, trustees made assumptions on inaccurate or incomplete information. Closure of Rutherford is contingent on upgrades to Frank J. Ney, and this uncertainty surrounding the reno has finally forced trustees to ensure they have a Plan B. The board approved a motion last week to put Rutherford at the top of the list for capital funding. This doesn’t mean that the school will now be spared, but it’s more than faint hope for parents who have never stopped advocating to keep it open and thriving.
There are often a few more education dollars to go around in an election year. At the same time, there are many school districts around B.C. that are arguably in crisis situations with their finances and our city’s north end, comparatively, might not be a priority neighbourhood for the province.
We wish for all our community’s schools to remain open, as long as that’s manageable while maintaining and improving education programs, facilities, staffing levels, course availability, class sizes, composition, graduation rates, engagement and learning for all. We know that our trustees are interested in those same outcomes.
Education will be an election issue in B.C. and there could be re-prioritizing of funding. But it’s hard to imagine a reality where we don’t need to tighten our belts and our budgets. If Rutherford remains open, numbers aren’t going to add up somewhere else in the district.
We hope trustees will have all the information they need the next time they’re forced to make a tough call.