Right before attending the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District public forum regarding the 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan on June 17, Ladysmith council took a position against the proposed K-5, 6-12 model.
Council voted unanimously to “strongly encourage” trustees to adopt a plan that will see the continuation of a K-7 school with 200-400 students south of Holland Creek; to seek to establish a K-7 school with 200-400 students at the Ladysmith Primary School (LPS) site or work collaboratively with the Town to acquire another elementary school site in a nearby location that will serve as a neighbourhood elementary school for the north end of the community; and to maintain Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) as a Grade 8-12 school and strive to utilize its present excess capacity by facilitating alternative education opportunities, providing adult education opportunities, daycare space, etc., and work with the Town’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department to facilitate community programming opportunities and add efficiencies.
In a statement read by Mayor Rob Hutchins during the June 17 council meeting, council expressed strong objections to six components of the Proposed 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan as background for the motion — the closure of École Davis Road with no plans to replace it in the same vicinity; the transfer of Grade 6 and 7 students to LSS and LSS becoming a Grade 6-12 school; the requirement that LPSl children will experience three school changes during their elementary school years; the creation of a single large K-5 elementary school at the LPS site “which according to provincial guidelines has an inadequate land area for such a school population;” the concentration of Ladysmith schools along Sixth Avenue, which is also a corridor for emergency vehicles; and the proposed exclusion of North Oyster students from the LSS catchment area.
In the statement, Hutchins noted that for more than three decades, the school board has established and provided for the majority of its students a learning environment that seeks to ensure children stay in a single school setting as long as possible — K-7 elementary and 8-12 secondary — and experience a minimal number of school changes — one. The board has also establish optimal school size guidelines of 200-400 for elementary and 600-1,200 for secondary.
Council noted that for Ladysmith children, the Proposed 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan “in the short-term and the long-term does not reflect the long-established model of K-7 and 8-12 learning environment, or SD68 optimal school size guidelines, and seeks to place all Ladysmith students on a single site with no room for growth.”
Council also stated that Ladysmith is a growing community with significant areas of growth both south and north of Holland Creek, and the Ladysmith Sustainability Vision of 2008-09 articulated by the town’s citizens supports schools in neighborhoods within walking or biking distance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Council also noted that the Human Early Learning Partnership’s Early Development Instrument has consistently shown that more than 30 per cent of Ladysmith kindergarten children have one or more areas of vulnerability.
In its statement, council expressed it has “strong concerns” about the safety of students in schools concentrated along Sixth Avenue in the vicinity of police and fire/rescue stations and about the negative effect on property values, the economy and the desirability of Ladysmith as a community due to the proposed centralization and proposed configuration of education facilities in Ladysmith.