A group of Cedar parents are challenging the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District’s plan to close schools in that area, and a petition organized by the group went before the legislature Friday, July 19.
Save Cedar Schools formed about two weeks ago after about 150 community members met to discuss next steps following the school board’s decision to move forward with several elements of its 10-year facilities plan, said spokesman Steve Rae.
The group is reacting to the school board’s recent decision to close Cedar Secondary School at the end of next year with secondary students going to John Barsby or Ladysmith, close Woodbank Primary and North Cedar Intermediate schools in June 2015, and reopen Cedar Secondary as an elementary school in the 2015-16 school year. Trustees also voted to close South Wellington Elementary immediately.
In less than 24 hours, parents collected nearly 2,000 signatures on a petition that calls for Education Minister Peter Fassbender to appoint a special advisor to the district to review the facilities plan, which Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA Doug Routley took to the legislature.
“There’s thousands of people in this community who are very unhappy,” said Rae. “We understand that tough decisions need to be made. But the decision they made was a rushed judgment, and it’s not the right thing to do.”
Parents have concerns about the plan to move secondary students out of the community, including bullying, transportation, ability to participate in extra-curricular activities, having the largest elementary school in the district and moving students from the newest high school to an older one. Where the money to renovate Cedar Secondary to accommodate elementary students is going to come from is also a concern, he said.
Joining the Save Cedar Schools coalition to challenge the school closures is Snuneymuxw First Nation.
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said the board is determined to move forward with the Cedar element of the facilities plan.
Brennan said consolidating secondary students will allow students access to better support services, more extra-curricular opportunities and increased course selections, and trustees will work with staff to provide transportation options that allow Cedar students to take advantage of extra-curricular activities.