SD68 delays Woodbank and North Cedar closures

With Cedar school conversion work halted, the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board voted to delay closing

With Cedar school conversion work halted, the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board voted to delay closing Woodbank Elementary and North Cedar Intermediate schools during a meeting Jan. 31.

The Cedar Community Secondary School closure, and its subsequent conversion to an elementary school, were part of the district’s 10-year facilities plan. Displaced students would have populated the new school come September. However, in mid-January, the newly-elected board voted to stop work at the school for 90 days (beginning Feb. 9) to allow for further facilities plan consultation, necessitating a motion to keep the schools open for another year.

“When we decided to enter into this 90-day consultation, it meant that the school, however it turns out, won’t be ready for 2015, so we need a place for those kids to go to school and so that is why we rescinded the bylaw for another year and then we will, at that time, depending on what decision we come up with, deal with that appropriately at the time,” said Steve Rae, school board chairman.

There have been changes since the plan was introduced in June 2013, according to Rae. South Wellington Elementary closed, with many of its students going to Chase River Elementary, and North Oyster remained open and became a French immersion school.

“So that just leaves roughly about 270-plus kids that are left, that are between North Oyster and Woodbank, so we need to keep them open for this year so that the kids in those schools have somewhere to go,” said Rae.

The plan includes construction of a new Nanaimo District Secondary School. The district saved $3 million with no indication of more money from the Province.

Rae said that no one on the board wants to abandon plans for a new high school.

“I’m of the opinion that we continue on planning for a new school and that one day, when the taps do open again, we’re ready for them,” he said. “It comes down to how all the money that we’re trying to save, how we proceed going forward with the rest of it.”