Chemainus, Crofton schools spared as SD79 announces closures

Parents in Chemainus can expect no change at their schools, as School District 79 restructures to a K-7, 8-12 model.

Six schools from the original list of 10 considered will be closed as part of School District 79’s restructuring to a Kindergarten to Grade 7 elementary and Grade 8 to 12 secondary configuration, and none of those are in Chemainus or Crofton.

A.B. Greenwell, Ecole Mill Bay, Koksilah, Somenos and Yount Elementary Schools will be closed as of June 30 and the Charles Hoey VC Facility as of Dec. 31, it was announced May 15 at Cowichan Secondary School.

Alex Aitken, Crofton and Alexander elementary schools were all spared.

There was very little reaction from the crowd that packed into the Cowichan Secondary School gym as the new configurations for each of the north, west, south and central zones for the 2013-14 school year were made public after much anticipation.

Parents can expect no change with Grades 8 to 12 at Chemainus Secondary School and K to 7 at Chemainus, Thetis Island and Crofton elementary schools.

The most important part of the restructuring, superintendent Joe Rhodes said, and reiterated by official trustee Mike McKay, was to maintain the best possible services for students.

“The focus is on the road ahead,’’ said McKay. “The focus is on making sure we have the capacity to deliver programs and services to all of our kids … Our challenge is simple. We have more priorities than resources we have to deal with those priorities.’’

McKay acknowledged the funding formula as it exists with the province needs to be fixed “so we get to something that’s sustainable over the long term.’’

The cuts resulted in a budget of $81,835,263 being given first and second reading for 2013-14. Third and final reading will be given at a subsequent meeting.

“What this process has revealed we have a community divided,’’ said Rhodes. “Moving forward, we need to work together.’’

Along with structural change, there will be educational change, he said.

Many people spoke passionately at previous meetings about the need to maintain middle schools for a variety of reasons.

“That is at the heart of the struggle that we had to wrestle with,’’ Rhodes said. “We know middle school years’ education could be done well outside of a middle school structure.’’

The result of the K-7, 8-12 format means virtually no change in the north end. But the other zones have a variety of changes, new catchment areas, slightly different school names and more.

The district even looked in its own office as a means to save money. A business plan will be devised to sell the board office and relocate to other district sites.

A transportation levy of $200 per student and less for each subsequent student from the same family will be assessed to maintain bus service for those dependent on it.

McKay said there is still some work to be done.

“We have never said the decisions made will solve everything,’’ he said.

“Yes, there will need to be other reductions. We will try to keep the reductions away from the classroom as much as possible.’’

Many students in School District 79 will be attending new schools in the fall based on closures and the reconfiguration to a predominant elementary-secondary model.

***

The switch to an elementary-secondary school configuration means big changes throughout School District 79.

Following are the series of recommendations for the 2013-14 school year presented to official trustee Mike McKay and passed during the May 15 open board meeting at Cowichan Secondary School. See the school district website at www.sd79.bc.ca for more details on these matters.

North Zone

• develop a performing arts dual credit program with Vancouver Island University and connect with the local fine arts community, including the Chemainus Theatre.

• direct the superintendent of schools to identify organizations serving community needs that would be suitable to locate in surplus space within North Zone schools.

• approve catchment areas for Chemainus Community Elementary School and Crofton Elementary School as shown on maps dated May 15.

• direct the superintendent of schools to establish a task force to examine ways to retain students in the North Zone schools.

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