Ladysmith Secondary School hosted an open house last Wednesday after the prospect of a fresh influx of students from out of town became more likely.
The open house featured a detailed presentation to the students, parents and people of Cedar Secondary School who are in limbo following School District 68’s decision to close the high school there.
With Cedar Secondary set to close, students who currently attend the school have the option of moving to John Barsby Community School in Nanaimo, or Ladysmith Secondary.
Cedar Secondary is the only high school in Cedar and Barsby has now been classed as the inevitable catchment school, but the LSS option is seemingly more popular.
“This is far from over as we’re still fighting it (the closure of Cedar Secondary),” said Steve Rae from the Save Cedar School coalition. “The other night at Ladysmith Secondary was fantastic. The staff were very welcoming and its very similar to our school in terms of the academic demographics and the courses they offer.
“Ladysmith is at the same academic level as us. There’s no woodwork and metalwork at Barsby and the kids that go there don’t sign up for the same classes as ours do — they don’t even offer Math 12. We actually forced Ladysmith to have the open house but they made us feel welcome. It’s by far the best fit.”
The students at Cedar have until Nov. 22 to choose Ladysmith Secondary in what is a “one-time option” as described by SD68.
Rae claims his coalition has been trying to engage SD68 hierarchy and trustees since April 2012, to no avail.
“We’ve came up with 33 different proposals in the past, they haven’t listened to us in any meaningful way, and now they’re going to close our school — it’s a joke. They should be ashamed of themselves,” said an irate Rae.
He also claims that SD68 are only preparing bus routes to Barsby once Cedar closes, and not Ladysmith, thus “forcing” Cedar students to pick the Nanaimo option.
“It’s ridiculous. The reason they’re forcing us to go to Barsby is because the school district recently asked the provincial government for $61 million to build a new high school in Nanaimo. Barsby is only 60% full so they’re trying to drive us there to get the money for a new school.”
According to Rae, Barsby recently hosted a similar presentation and open house to Ladysmith at which 30 people from Cedar showed up. The open house at LSS saw 150 come out.
He envisions over 75% of Cedar’s kids choosing the Ladysmith option despite the apparent lack of buses scenario and claims the high school closure will “devastate” Cedar’s community.
He also says Snuneymuxw First Nation is set to file a lawsuit against SD68 as they “feel they weren’t consulted.”
Save Cedar Schools is planning to support Snuneymuxw with the lawsuit.
Cedar Secondary currently has a 107% student capacity. It has a 97% graduation rate — the highest in the district.
LSS principal Dave Street was unavailable for comment at press time.