Claims that Ladysmith is a small town that does not have the student population to support two K-7 schools are deeply uninformed.
The school district uses school enrolment projections prepared by Baragar, a consulting firm that takes local data into account in calculating enrolment projections. Using the Baragar data from the school district’s 2012-13 Capital Plan, we can see our enrolment projections over the next 15 years.
These projections show flat or declining enrolment in the next few years, followed by strong growth starting in 2017. If we look at this by catchment area, we see that central Ladysmith is projected to stay flat, with most growth driven in the Davis Road catchment area.
None of the Baragar numbers take into account the population growth of the Holland Creek Area Plan and the Couverdon plans, each of which will expand Ladysmith’s population by 2,500 residents. Nor does it take into account any influx of students that may happen from the closure of Cedar-area schools.
In both the current proposed 10-Year Plan and the school district’s 2012 Strategic Plan, they establish the optimal elementary school size as between 200 and 400 students. This is the optimal size for student success and development, while taking into account economies of scale.
With even the most conservative projections showing our town’s elementary school enrolments between 650 and 750 and growing, clearly our town can support two K-7 elementary schools.
The case for two K-7 schools is made even more compelling when we look at the school district’s facilities condition index: EDR = 0.4284, LIS = 0.3725, LPS = 0.3388. Anything above 0.3 is considered “poor,” with the larger number showing a worse facility. The school district’s 2012 seismic assessment shows all three schools as “medium” risk, meaning that non-structural upgrades are also required.
And with the compelling research that points to the significant negative educational and social outcomes of a middle school or 6-12 model (which includes poorer academic achievements, sapped self-esteem, higher teenage pregnancies, higher rates of discipline for boys), it is clear that we should be standing up for the best and most appropriate facilities for Ladysmith schools.
Ladysmith needs two K-7 schools, and this must be a priority in the school district’s 10-Year Plan.