‘Which of our children are we going to abandon?’

Trustees vote in favour of closing two elementary schools

Which two elementary schools in School District 72 will shut their doors at the end of this school year?

That’s the question the Board of Trustees will now be tasked with answering after accepting all the recommendations of their 10-year Facility Plan at this week’s public meeting – after amending a few of them (PDF) based on public feedback.

The Facility Plan (PDF) was presented to the board at the Nov. 17 meeting, and contained seven recommendations, implemented in three phases.

Phase one, to be completed by the end of June 2016, involves the closing of two elementary schools within the greater Campbell River area to address the issue of excess unutilized space.

The board accepted this recommendation unanimously.

“I’ve been here in SD72 for a long time,” said Trustee Richard Franklin during the comment period on the recommendation, pointing out that Campbell River is simply not the same place it has been through the years, and the district needs to respond appropriately to that reality.

“I came here in 1978 as a school teacher, and in those days there were well over 8,500 students. Now we’re at a place where we have just over 5,000 students. That’s a huge drop. The town has changed. The Mill is closed. Mines have closed. The fishing industry is not what it was. We have a different economy and different family structures, and, unfortunately, we just don’t have as many kids as we did.

“No board ever relishes the idea of closing a school,” he continued. “On the other hand, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers to run those schools in the best way possible. It’s very unfortunate that it comes to this, but in looking at look at the numbers, in terms of empty classrooms … unfortunately, it’s necessary.”

Trustee Daryl Hagen agreed with Franklin, pointing out that through his 25 years on the school board, he “never thought he’d be in favour of closing schools,” but in this circumstance, with many of the district’s buildings in the physical condition they’re in, closures are necessary, “so that people don’t look back in five years and ask, ‘why didn’t they do something done back then?’ We have to do what is right, and I think this is right.”

Trustee John Kerr then added that the empty space in many schools – 69 of the district’s 175 elementary school classrooms are “surplus” – simply take too many of the district’s finite financial resources to maintain. Those resources should, he argued, be going to improving the learning outcome for students, not for maintenance of empty space.

“We get a limited envelope of money,” Kerr said. “What we’ve seen is a lot of our resources are going to maintaining capacity that’s far in excess of what we need. We need to look at where do we get the largest bang for our buck in terms of supporting learning for our children all across the spectrum.”

Trustee Joyce McMann summed up the board’s position before the vote.

“In the seven years I’ve been on the board, there has been no adjustment to our facilities maintenance money,” she said. “Our schools are getting older and we’re having to spread that money thinner and thinner so that many our schools are now in a deteriorating state. I really feel that we’re in a position of figuring out which of our children we’re going to abandon, but I think it’s come to that.”

After voting in favour of the recommendation, the board directed district staff to come back to the board with a recommendation on which two schools should be considered for closure and the rationale behind those recommendations. That report will be delivered and discussed at the Jan. 12 public meeting.

Once schools are identified for closure there will be a school closure process as required by the Ministry of Education under the School Act and in accordance with the school district’s existing permanent or temporary school closure policy (E-03), which can be found on the district website (PDF). This process would include its own series of meeting with potentially affected school communities and stakeholders.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Boat burns in Maple Street boatyard

Firefighters were called to a boatyard on Maple St. between 14th and… Continue reading

Happy to be in the newspaper

Four year-old Dia Cammack had no idea that playing in the snow would land her in the newspaper

Carihi fly fishing program is no more

Well, okay, that’s not entirely true.

Affordable housing for women and children coming to downtown Campbell River

Complex will be located by Rose Harbour, which serves the same demographic and has long waiting list

Check out a new future at career and education fair in Comox

Event today features booths from more than 40 employers and educational institutions

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Wuhan bans cars, Hong Kong closes schools as coronavirus spreads

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government will raise its response level to emergency, highest one

B.C.’s oldest practising lawyer celebrates 100th birthday, shares advice

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

Most Read