School closure issue flies under community’s radar

NANAIMO – In December 2012, the trustees of Nanaimo school district passed a motion accepting a draft strategic plan.

To the Editor,

In December 2012, the trustees of Nanaimo school district passed a motion accepting a draft strategic plan.

This plan implies a number of significant changes throughout the district, specifically around what has been identified as “optimal school size” for maximum facility and staffing efficiency.

It identifies student populations of 200 to 400 at the elementary school level, and 600 to 1,200 at the secondary school level as being optimal.

While the overall metrics of the plan seem sound at first blush, the lack of common sense becomes quickly apparent.

The school district has to address facility use (potentially closing schools) where the specified minimum student population of 200 cannot be supported by either the existing facility or the surrounding community.

This may displace students to what has previously been referred to as “adjacent schools,” many of which are already operating over capacity – in some cases, this displacement will also require the district to absorb the cost of new bus routes to transport displaced children daily from their home catchment areas.

The plan then further outlines that pursuant to the district’s newest catch-phrase, “success for all,” the remaining facilities will be updated to support a modernized approach to education, suited to this new era of technological immersion.

While new facilities, customized education, and equal access to programs sounds like every parent’s wish list for the public education system, there is one rather large fly in this ointment.

The district must achieve all of the above on a reduced budget.

It doesn’t take an accounting degree to see the impossibility of spending less money while offering new and updated facilities, individualized learning plans (that will be inherently time intensive for teaching staff), and absorbing new transportation costs.

In light of the magnitude of changes coming to the district following this plan, I am stunned the proposed changes to the 2013-14 school calendar have been widely publicized, while the details of this strategic plan have been kept largely quiet.

Perhaps if the community were aware of the proposed changes, the trustees would be forced to examine the realities of this strategic plan rather than blindly pushing forward and hoping the numbers will magically add up all on their own.

Tiffany Nelson