The school board has decided what its top priorities are when it comes to the second phase of its 10-Year Facility Plan.
Among the seven recommendations adopted by School District 72 in their recent 10-Year Facility Plan, five were slated for Phase 2, which began this month.
These recommendations were the disposal of surplus properties, reviewing rural school facility use, reviewing and addressing the district’s technology needs going forward, changing the district’s elementary school catchment areas and addressing what to do about Cedar Elementary, which consistently has one of the district’s highest enrolments, but is aging significantly.
And the Board of Education decided at this week’s public meeting in which order those will occur.
From now until June, the board will undertake a review of their technology needs, explore the sale and/or leasing of properties they are not using and redraw their elementary school catchment lines.
Rural school use and addressing Cedar School will happen the year after.
When the Facility Plan was completed, there were many inquires and much input from various community stakeholders as to which initiatives would or should happen when, secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick told the board Tuesday, “so we thought it would be a good idea for the board to support a formal plan as to how we would approach Phase 2.”
The recommendation of splitting this phase of the plan into two distinct sections was made by staff and accepted by the board Tuesday night.
Because the review of technology has already begun, it is natural for it to continue through this year, Patrick told the board, to which a few questions were raised in regards to whether it was just the physical equipment that was being reviewed and invested in, or also people’s ability and familiarity with that technology.
“If we do invest in this technology, we need to also invest in making sure that the children are getting the best use out of it,” said Trustee John Kerr. “Just as there’s a wide variety in terms of how our children learn and their abilities to learn in different ways, the same holds true of teachers in how they implement their instruction … I think we need to address how the teachers are going to learn to do what the government – and I guess what we, as proxies of the government in this respect – are asking them to do.”
Patrick responded to say that he hopes training and investment in the people operating the technology is included in the plan.
“One of the discussions was an openness to realize that the importance of people and training as far as the use of technology is just as important as the device itself, so we do hope that’s a component of the review,” Patrick said.
The disposal of the district’s surplus property, “was probably the one we got the most phone calls on, asking whether the board would like to keep, lease or dispose of properties, so we’re proposing that we look at this one immediately,” Patrick said.
And because of last year’s Oyster River and Discovery Passage Elementary closures, it’s probably good to address the district catchment areas sooner rather than later, as well, Patrick told the board.
The rural school facility use review is being put on the back burner while the government itself conducts their review of rural schools, expected to be complete this spring, “which may have some good policy in it which will help the board make decisions or help support these schools, so I think it’s a good idea to wait for that report to come out before we begin ours. It will actually be very good timing,” Patrick said.
And the Cedar Elementary decisions may be impacted by the possible revenue generated by the disposal of excess properties, Patrick said, so it’s best to wait on decisions surrounding that facility, as well.