Plan submitted to SD68 proposes big changes for Ladysmith schools

Consultant's plan recommends teaching Ladysmith students in grades six to eight at LSS according to a "middle school philosophy."

A report presented to the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District school board last week recommends some significant changes over the next 10 years, including the reconfiguration of schools in Ladysmith.

“Enhanced facilities for learning” is one of the district’s three strategic planning goals, and the board of education has asked the district’s senior management team to develop a draft 10-year facilities enhancement plan to meet the goal.

Dr. Doug Player has been working as a consultant to assist senior management with the definition of the key elements of the plan, and his recommendations were presented to the board April 11. The draft plan will be a multi-year plan, and its primary focus will be how facilities can be enhanced to provide better learning opportunities for students, according to the school district.

Player said that the plan he presented is directed to accomplishing the following goals:

• First and foremost, to enhance learning opportunities for all students;

• Second, to garner new (and long-overdue) state-of-the-art replacement facilities;

• Third, to consolidate costly positions so funding can go to the classroom;

• Fourth, to save wasted maintenance funds; and,

• Finally, to improve the long-term fiscal position of the board.

The expectations of the plan are that it will also:

• Improve student achievement results;

• Improve program offerings for students;

• Renew the approach and improve conditions for alternate program students;

• Assist in the achievement of the board goals; and,

• Assist in balancing the budget in the long term.

The plan is a 10-year plan divided into three stages: immediate actions to be undertaken in years one and two; medium-term actions to be undertaken in years three through five, and long-term which includes recommendations for years six through 10.

The plan recommends that the board consolidate 10 facilities, rebuild four facilities, rethink and repurpose the District Resource Centre/Learning Resource Centre, institute three new enrichment programs, relocate and renew the approach to the alternate programs, adjust the immersion program, and relocate the administrative functions.

Player said the district is dealing with deteriorating facilities — 40 per cent are beyond their useful life — empty space, dysfunctional buildings, a lack of program enrichment, staffing duplication and a large budget deficit.

“In my opinion, right now, your students don’t have the facilities they deserve; they don’t have the achievement they should have,” he said. “Your teachers should have more resources.”

The district is trying to spread too few dollars across too many facilities and by massing students together, the district can improve course offerings, create better learning conditions and offer more resources to students, Player said.

In the first two years, he recommends relocating the learning alternatives programs to Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS) and the elementary Life Skills program from Rutherford to Fairview elementary schools; moving Cedar Secondary students to John Barsby and moving North Cedar, North Oyster, South Wellington and Woodbank elementary school students to Cedar Secondary, closing those schools; doubling the half-size gym at Hammond Bay Elementary School; moving Grades 11 and 12 students from Woodlands to NDSS; closing the District Resource Centre; and reconfiguring schools in Ladysmith.

Player recommends adding Grades 6 and 7 to Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) and educating the students in Grades 6 to 8 under a “middle school philosophy.”

In the appendix in Player’s plan, LSS principal Dave Street states the school is eager to embrace the younger students.

“Suffice to say, LSS is both READY and EAGER for change and have already made significant sacrifice as a school community to ensure that the needs of students and this community of learners is best served now and in the future,” he writes in an e-mail to Player. “Indeed, many LSS programs already have a connection to our feeder schools.”

“I am recommending that any merger of intermediate grades NOT WAIT, but take place immediately (September 2013),” he adds. “The connections, relationships and program opportunities are ready NOW. Given the established relationships of the educational community in Ladysmith, the foundation in place with staff and community partners/families, and the logic behind the merger … it makes the most sense to move now.”

In years three and five, Player proposes closing Woodlands and sending the junior students to NDSS; rebuilding NDSS; closing Ladysmith Intermediate School and building a new elementary school; rebuilding Cilaire Elementary; and closing Departure Bay Elementary and moving the students to Cilaire.

In the final five years, the report suggests rebuilding Rutherford; moving the District Administration Centre to the Selby Street site; and moving facilities functions to the Old Victoria Road site.

Player’s recommendations don’t stop at facilities.

He believes part of the reason for the popularity of the French immersion program is people feel this is the only way for their children to get enrichment and suggests initiating a pilot arts program at the new Cedar elementary and other enrichment programs at John Barsby, Randerson Ridge, Wellington, Dover and Cilaire to start, all of which will raise achievement expectations, with other schools jumping on board if these programs are successful and well received.

Player said the learning alternatives students should be at NDSS, where they can better access amenities such as the Career Technical Centre.

He estimates the plan will mean annual operational savings of about $1.3 million per year in the first five years of the plan and recommends disposal of some properties, with the money used to upgrade other facilities.

Trustees asked senior management to present a draft facilities plan on April 24. If the board approves the plan, consultation will take place in May and June. The complete report is available online at www.sd68.bc.ca.

The recommendations

Some of the Ladysmith- and Cedar-focused recommendations presented by Dr. Doug Player in his Enhanced Facilities for Learning 10-year plan, which was presented to the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District board of education April 11.

Year One (2013)

• Reconfigure Ladysmith Secondary School to enrol Grades 6 through 12

Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) is underutilized, while Ladysmith Intermediate School and École Davis Road Elementary are in poor condition. This reconfiguration is the first move designed to enable all students in Ladysmith to be taught on one campus in this unique community. LSS has an operational capacity of 800 students, and by adding Grades 6 and 7, the school approaches capacity. The students in Grades 6 to 8 could operate under a middle school philosophy, allowing a smooth transition to secondary programs, while the younger students would have access to facilities not normally available to that age.

• This reconfiguration of Ladysmith Secondary opens room within Ladysmith Intermediate School to enable the consolidation of the remaining kindergarten to Grade 5 English-stream École Davis Road Elementary population within Ladysmith Intermediate. This would act as an intermediary step to the accommodation of all Ladysmith students on the single campus. By doing so, the Davis Road population would no longer be accommodated in so many portables. Ladysmith Intermediate has an operating capacity of 300, which enables this consolidation to take place comfortably. This move accomplishes the goal of improving the students’ learning spaces, while ensuring adequate numbers in the building. It also enables savings of approximately $100,000 in a difficult budget year.

Year Two (2014)

• Move all Cedar Grade 8-12 students to John Barsby Secondary School

Secondary schools require a certain mass of students in order to offer a full range of programs to the students. John Barsby is currently underutilized, and the addition of the Cedar community enables John Barsby to operate at full capacity so that the students benefit from a full range of opportunities.

• Consolidate North Cedar Intermediate, North Oyster, South Wellington and Woodbank in a new elementary school in the former Cedar Secondary building

The four elementary schools in the Cedar area have become too small to offer the opportunities that should be available to each of the children. This change provides outstanding facilities not typically available to younger children and a population base that reduces split classes while making available required support resources within the building. Much more teacher choice is also available. Net annual savings of over three quarters of a million dollars become available in the district’s operating budget. Using Ministry of Education capacities, Cedar has an operational capacity of 475 as an elementary school, with the ability to expand if required.

• Initiate a pilot program in the arts at the new Cedar Elementary

The school has exceptional facilities in its elective wing that offer the opportunity to offer a unique enrichment program in the arts. Building a student’s capacity in the arts has been linked to improved academic success, and this is another positive approach to improving the district’s achievement results. The suggested program has been designed by a Cedar teacher who has expertise in this area and who knows this community well. Cedar could become one of the most exciting elementary schools in the province.

Year three (2015)

• Begin the rebuild of NDSS and Ladysmith Elementary

This recommendation is intended to create a new vibrant culture on two individual campuses that boast exceptional sites. It is important that the district move forward with dispatch so that the students and staff have access to modern state of the art facilities.

Year Five (2017)

• Move into the new Ladysmith Elementary School

This will consolidate all Ladysmith students on the same campus.

The full 10-year plan is available online at www.sd68.bc.ca.

 

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