Why close a fully-equipped functioning school building?
That is one of the main questions North Oyster Elementary School parents are asking school trustees as the end of the school district’s 60-day consultation period for its Proposed 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan.
Fiona Steeves, co-chair of the North Oyster Parent Advisory Council (PAC), says one of parents’ big issues with the plan’s proposal to close North Oyster at the end of this school year and relocate students to Woodbank Primary and North Cedar Intermediate is the fact that North Oyster is a functional facility.
“A significant portion of North Oyster is less than 20 years old, and we are not one of the deteriorating facilities, and it does not make sense to close it,” she said.
Steeves also pointed out that North Oyster has been considered a Ladysmith school up until this plan, which ties it to schools to the north.
“Most of us feel tied to Ladysmith,” she noted.
Steeves says North Oyster parents also have serious issues with the actual process that the school district is undertaking around this plan.
“The timing is horrendous for this plan and the fact that we don’t find out until the end of school,” she said. “If it does close, there is no time for transitioning to a new school. Basically, the plan does too much too soon. We don’t disagree that there are changes that need to be made, but there must be a better way to implement them and to roll it out that doesn’t affect students in the short term.”
The Proposed 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan proposes creating an arts-focused elementary school in Cedar, and the North Oyster PAC has submitted its own proposal to the school board that would see an arts program at North Oyster Elementary School instead.
“We have all the stuff they’ve talked about putting in the new Cedar Elementary,” she said, noting North Oyster has a fully functional stage and sound and lighting equipment, a kiln, a pottery wheel, print making equipment, a sewing room, a whole room dedicated to music and more.
North Oyster has a capacity of 294, and Steeves says there are currently 83 students. She says there are almost 300 students in the North Oyster catchment area, and 141 do not attend public school. She believes putting in an enriched learning program such as a fine arts program could draw families back to North Oyster.
“A lot of parents want their children to be in the public system, but they want enhanced programs,” she said.