The School District (SD72) has responded to the concerns they were hearing from many on Quadra and the Discovery Islands about the possibility of imminent school closures within those communities.
They are not considering closing rural schools.
On Wednesday, the Mirror reported that Strathcona Regional Director Jim Abram had expressed his displeasure about the amount of time the community was being given to provide feedback on a report received by SD72 which recommends the closure of two elementary schools by next June. He was especially concerned for the future of Quadra Elementary and Surge Narrows Elementary on Read Island, both of which are very under-capacity.
After Wednesday’s Mirror went to press, the School District responded to Abrams’ letter with a letter of their own, saying, in part, “It would seem that there is some misunderstanding and angst circulating amongst Area C residents with respect to the recommendations contained within the draft facility plan and community consultation, particularly the potential impact for Quadra Elementary and Surge Narrows School. This letter is to provide clarification and outline our next steps with the hope of alleviating some of this anxiety.”
The letter, signed by board chair Susan Wilson, goes on to say that Area C schools are not ones being considered for closure.
“The only possible school closures being considered at this point are of two elementary schools within the greater Campbell River area by the end of June 2016. The report does not contain a recommendation to close any of our Area C schools,” the letter reads.
Wilson told the Mirror after the district’s letter addressing Abram’s and others’ concerns went out, that not many people – besides those in Area C – have provided feedback on the proposed recommendations.
“Other than the misunderstanding with the people who are concerned about Area C, we haven’t received a lot of feedback from people yet,” Wilson says, “but there is still time, and hopefully people will be in touch.”
Wilson wants to make clear that this particular feedback period on the report from staff is by no means the extent of the consultation process that will be taking place should the board accept the recommendations contained in the report.
“This is not the consultation process,” Wilson says. “We will be engaged in a comprehensive, in-depth consultation with the community throughout this process, and this is just the beginning of that.”
She says that while it is true that the board intends to decide at the Dec. 8 public meeting whether to accept the recommendations, accept some and reject others, or reject it altogether, they will not be making any decisions about school closures at that time.
She says both the board and senior staff at the district “are scrupulous about following due process,” adding, “we are partners in this with the community. We aren’t going to dictate to people what’s happening,” which echoes what she said in the letter to Abram.
“It has never been the intention of the Board of Education that the request for email feedback on the draft facilities plan by November 30 would be the only opportunity for consultation,” Wilson wrote, “but rather an initial opportunity to hear questions and concerns from individual members of the public that would need to be addressed in future consultations.”
The public still has until Monday (Nov. 30) to provide feedback on the staff report and recommendations contained therein at sd72.bc.ca under “District News.”