Public meetings look at options for North Oyster and École Davis Road

Options offering alternatives to closing North Oyster and Davis Road schools will be presented tonight (Nov. 26) at 7 p.m. in Ladysmith.

Last spring, School District 68 released a report that recommended significant changes for schools in Ladysmith and the surrounding area.

Two of those recommendations contained in the school district’s 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan for Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools were to close École Davis Road and North Oyster Elementary schools. A consultation process on the proposed closures was carried out last spring, and on June 26, the school board voted to extend the consultation deadline for these two proposed closures to Dec. 9.

As part of that consultation, a Ladysmith Extended Consultation Working Group, made up of parents, community members and school district staff, was formed, and the group has been meeting on a regular basis since September to explore possible alternative options.

Tonight (Nov. 26), the group is presenting those options to the public and offering the community a chance to provide feedback during a public meeting at 7 p.m. at Ladysmith Secondary School. A similar meeting was held last night as well.

“It’s an opportunity for questions and feedback,” explained Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins, a member of the Working Group, adding people can also go online to see the options and offer their input on the recommendations online if they can’t make the meeting.

After these two meetings, the Working Group has to put together a final report for the school board in early December, and that report will be presented at the board’s December meeting.

“What is going forward to the board is options for their consideration and input from the community; it’s not a final recommendation — that is not our responsibility,” explained Hutchins. “[Monday night and Tuesday night], the public will have an understanding of the work that was undertaken over the last three months and hopefully a better understanding of the rationale for the options and will be able to provided feedback and suggestions.”

These two public meetings — which have the same agenda each night, to hear the Working Group’s report and provided feedback — are significant ones for the community.

“The two facilities that are considered potentially for closure have been in our communities for over five decades each and have been not only valued educational facilities, but also valued community facilities,” said Hutchins. “Schools historically are anchors of neighbourhoods. This whole issue is of importance to not just the school community, but the greater community.”