Previous school plan didn’t measure up

Re: Previous facility plan had considerable merit, Guest Comment, Nov. 3.

To the Editor,

Re: Previous facility plan had considerable merit, Guest Comment, Nov. 3.

It is easy to create simple sound bites (“this board’s decision to scrap an $87-million government-approved facilities plan”), but it takes time and effort to understand the complex issues underneath.

For example, the ministry’s approval merely reflected compliance with their policies and regulations, and did not at all imply a senior level of government’s agreement that one option was superior to another.

Any compliant plan put forward would have received the same approval. It is local representatives that we need to hold accountable for pushing a plan that, while perhaps sound in premise, failed on detail.

To make the plan work, the business case put forward revenue figures that assumed the sale of the complete 14.1-hectare NDSS site. It neglected to account for the cost of replacing the essential district facilities that would have gone with the school, like the District Administration Centre, the maintenance yard and the bus yard.

Neither did it address how far the revenues would have to be adjusted downward if a smaller portion of the site were sold. This is only one of many under-reported flaws that caused responsible trustees to decide that good stewardship required pulling back and starting again.

A facilities plan is supposed to be about creating the best possible learning environment for students.

The district planning document pointed out that the secondary population is highly mobile, as indicated by the 33 per cent of Woodlands catchment students and 40 per cent of John Barsby catchment students who attend other schools.

What is most important in choosing a school site is not its physical location, but the amenities and other advantages it brings with it.

NDSS is a large, flexible site in the heart of the city’s best recreation and sports facilities, and next door to the most important educational institution in the whole region. It is hard to imagine a site likely to produce a better learning environment somewhere else in the city.

Why did this plan want to throw that away?

Elections are time to hold elected representatives to account for their past actions. Reaching blindly for promised money while ignoring inconvenient facts does not look like good stewardship to me.

C. McIvor

Nanaimo