Prioritizing the upgrade of Nanaimo District Secondary School is among recommendations listed in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district’s draft long-range facilities plan for 2021-31. (News Bulletin file)

Prioritizing the upgrade of Nanaimo District Secondary School is among recommendations listed in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district’s draft long-range facilities plan for 2021-31. (News Bulletin file)

Upgrading NDSS a priority in Ladysmith school district long-range facilities plan

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools forecasts enrolment at 26 per cent overcapacity in 2030/31

Upgrading 69-year-old Nanaimo District Secondary School should be top of mind, according to a draft of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ latest long-range facilities plan.

The draft document was presented to the school district business committee Wednesday and it stated the area has rebounded from a cycle of declining enrolment, with increasing student numbers and potential for 26 per cent enrolment overcapacity in 2030/31, according to district projections. The 10-year facilities plan (2021-31) is expected to act as a guiding document to the district and in addition to prioritizing NDSS upgrades, it recommends to “align seismic upgrades with other priorities in the facilities plan, including environmental upgrades and expansions.”

“It’s our No. 1 seismic priority, it’s end of life,” Mark Walsh, district secretary-treasurer, told trustees at their Feb. 17 business committee meeting. “School districts around the province are getting replacement schools right now and NDSS, this again is a message to our community, to the (Ministry of Education), to political partners that this needs to happen.”

In terms of aligning seismic upgrades, Walsh said it is something the district is already looking at, using Cilaire Elementary School as an example. Last June, the B.C. Ministry of Education announced grant money for seismic upgrade work at the school.

In addition to seismic upgrades at Cilaire, Walsh said the district is aiming to get ventilation and accessibility work done.

While past plans have seen school closures, Walsh said the draft isn’t calling for that.

“When you open a facilities plan in a school district, you’re assuming you’re going to see school closures, or there’s the risk there and so we just want to get this out of the way,” said Walsh. “The numbers just aren’t there to contemplate it in the district. We have a couple of shrinking schools, but that’s not a sign they need to close. It’s a sign we need to do something to maintain their populations and so no school closures.”

The district came about its enrolment projections from consultants Baragar Systems, which it sends student numbers to annually for funding purposes, and Licker Geospatial Consulting, which assisted with determining longer-range projections.

According to the draft document, enrolment of 18,383 is projected for 2030/31.

The committee approved a motion that will put the draft document out for public feedback with community engagement from March 1 to April 2.

Staff are anticipated to report back to the committee in April with results and any potential amendments.

In all, there were 32 recommendations.

To view a copy of the plan, click here.

RELATED: SD68 forecasts enrolment rebounding from COVID-19

RELATED: B.C. gov’t provides $19M for seismic school upgrades

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