More consultation for Ladysmith and North Oyster parents

School trustees vote to extend consultation period for North Oyster Elementary and École Davis Road schools.

North Oyster Elementary School will stay open for 2013-14 and a decision about the future of École Davis Road has been delayed.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District trustees decided on a number of the proposed elements of the district’s 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan during public meeting June 26 in Nanaimo but also extended the consultation process on two proposals that have a big impact in this area.

At the meeting, trustees took a number of steps, including:

• Approved a bylaw to close South Wellington Elementary on June 30, 2013. The South Wellington school attendance area will be merged with Woodbank Primary and North Cedar Intermediate, with parent/student choice of Chase River Elementary.

• Approved a bylaw to close Cedar Community Secondary on June 30, 2014. The school attendance area will merge with John Barsby Community Secondary, with a parent/student choice of Ladysmith Secondary. Transportation will be provided to John Barsby Community Secondary as per the district’s transportation policy.

• For North Oyster Elementary, which was proposed for closure this year, the board passed a motion to extend the consultation period to Dec. 1, 2013, to allow time to consider alternatives, with a proposal to close the school on June 30, 2014.

• For École Davis Road Elementary, the board passed a motion to extend the consultation period to Dec. 1, 2013, to allow time to consider alternatives, with a proposal to close the school on June 30, 2014.

• Approved a motion to reconfigure Ladysmith Secondary School as a Grade 7-12 school in September 2014. Ladysmith Intermediate and École Davis Road Grade 7 students will relocate to LSS, and LSS will offer a Grade 7 and 8 French Immersion program.

• Approved a bylaw to close Woodbank Primary and North Cedar Intermediate in June 2015. The two schools will be consolidated into the renovated Cedar Secondary building in September 2015.

District staff will now prepare the final facilities plan for submission to the Ministry of Education, including the motions approved June 26, along with the proposals for years three to six in the plan.

Fiona Steeves, co-chair of the North Oyster Parent Advisory Council (PAC), says parents are excited that their school will stay open another year and that the consultation period has been extended for their community.

“I think it’s great; that’s what we were hoping for,” she said. “We didn’t feel 60 days was enough time to come up with the ideas we wanted to do. We’ve been saying all along that North Oyster is a good facility; it’s not one of the 50-year-old deteriorating buildings, and it should be used. Our numbers are low, so we need to figure out some programs to draw people back from our catchment and even from other catchments.”

Steeves says the community has come up with lots of ideas that could turn North Oyster into a magnet school that draws students in with its enhanced programming, such as an arts program or First Nations cultural enhancement, and all of these options take time to consider and get set up.

“We’re very excited about the future of North Oyster,” she said.

Jenny Van Horne, co-vice-chair of the EDR PAC, says at this point, parents have mixed feelings.

“The process was difficult for everybody to be going through,” she said. “We’re disappointed in the vote for Grade 7 students to go to the high school. We feel there’s a lot of information that backs up that this is not the best move, especially when the vulnerability is so high.”

Van Horne is hopeful that this extended consultation process will be a true consultation that includes all the stakeholders.

“I feel it’s a window of opportunity,” she said. “If it is a true consultation process with full disclosure from the school district as to what they truly need, it has the potential to be successful.”

Van Horne says the EDR PAC would like to be involved in determining what this consultation would look like.

She feels that whether the five months until Dec. 1 is enough time depends on what that process ends up being.

For more about all the decisions that were made at the June 26 school board meeting, visit the school district’s website.