The Evergreen Elementary School property still sits vacant and shuttered

Two elementary schools may be on chopping block

SD72 plan involves the possibility of closing two schools and combining the city's two high schools

School District 72 Superintendent Tom Longridge and Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick came back to the board of trustees this week with recommendations to address the district’s aging facilities and surplus space.

Among those recommendations are consideration of closing and combining schools.

“Many of SD72’s schools are anywhere from 30 to 50-years-old and were constructed when society had very different expectations for the delivery of education and technological needs,” the report reads.

“It is currently challenging to serve vulnerable students, get technology in the hands of our students, and enhance our community connections in a manner we would like because of the distribution and utilization of space and the condition of our schools.”

The report recommends a three-phase implementation to address the issues of under-utilized space and optimization of resources. The first is to close two elementary schools by next June. The independent facility review given to the board at the Oct. 27 meeting pointed out that 39 per cent of classroom areas in elementary and middle school facilities in the district are sitting empty and are considered “surplus.”

The report presented this week says closing two elementary schools will help address that issue.

Recommendations for phase two of the plan – slated for September 2016 to June 2019 –  include rebuilding Cedar Elementary or, “moving the school’s population to a different site,” redrawing the catchment areas to redistribute students across the district and selling off surplus properties. The district owns surplus property at Rock Bay, on Stuart Island and McPhedran Street as well as the old Evergreen Elementary property, and, according to the report, it is “highly unlikely that these sites would be required by the school district within the next 20 years,” since enrolment is declining, and the sale of those properties could “free some funds that could be directed towards the maintenance and betterment of our existing facilities.”

Phase three of the plan – beginning in September 2019 – features a recommendation to either combine Carihi and Timberline Secondary schools into one new building or creating a “one-school, two-campus approach,” and rebuilding Carihi as part of that approach, as it is turning 50 years old next year.

The draft facilities plan can be found on the district’s website at sd72.bc.ca under “District News.”

“We understand that schools are important parts of our neighbourhoods and that people feel strongly about them,” said board chair Susan Wilson in an open letter to parents/guardians, staff and the community after the report was received. “We also fully appreciate that any decisions we make will have an impact on some school communities. As elected representatives, we take the responsibility entrusted in us to make thoughtful, informed decisions that equally considers all students very seriously.

“The priority of the Board of Education is to now give thoughtful deliberation and consideration to the many factors and determine the final school district facilities plan that will guide our district’s development in the best possible way for the years to come.”

At this point the board has only received the report and is considering whether to accept the recommendations. Should it be determined that school closures are one of the recommendations accepted, it will begin a school closure consultation process, as required by the Ministry of Education under the School Act.

The Board of Education trustees have said they welcome feedback on the plan for consideration before making any concrete decisions, provided they are received by Nov. 30 by email at facilities.plan@sd72.bc.ca or by mail, addressed to the Secretary-Treasurer’s office at School District 72.

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