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Parksville Qualicum Beach school district pledges to keep K-12 open in anchor communities

Residents have spoken and Kindergarten through Grade 12 will continue to be offered in the district's anchor communities.

"This is a given now, the community has told us now that they want to see K to 12 options in both of our anchor communities, that is the Town of Qualicum Beach and the City of Parksville," said acting superintendent Rollie Koop at Tuesday's school board meeting.

Koop said a consensus on the need for K-12 schooling came out of a series of public meetings on facilities where residents have helped to come up with solutions to deal with the district's declining enrolment and a budget deficit of $3.4 million over the next five years.

At a meeting Monday at Kwalikum Secondary School parents, teachers and residents took part in an activity to help the school board set criteria surrounding the inevitable decisions that will have to be made, including school closures, amalgamation and reconfiguration.

Attendees at the meeting felt strongly about retaining quality programming and they agreed that the under-utilization at the schools needs to be optimized, Koop said. Combined middle school utilization is currently at only 60 per cent, elementary schools at 68 per cent and secondary school the highest at a combined 71 per cent. The public also wanted the school board to consider the community impact on any decisions, he said.

"There is unequivocal support for maintaining small rural schools and the vibrancy those facilities bring to those small communities in the outlying areas," Koop said.

Another important point made at the meeting Monday night was that there be minimal disruption to students should a change happen.

“If we go into the process, does it all need to be at once?” Koop reiterated from the findings, adding that if a student is moved form secondary school back to middle school it wouldn’t necessarily be a healthy thing.

A number of other points were made and will be available to view on the school district’s website.

Trustee Ross Milligan said he wanted to compliment Koop and his staff for a very thorough process thus far, in regards to the facilities review process, and said the response had been good at the last couple of meetings.

“Certainly based on the applause at the end of the meeting I think everyone really appreciates your work,” he said.

Mount Arrowsmith Teacher’s Association president Deb Morran echoed Milligan’s statements, saying it was heart warming to see all the parents, teachers and the wide range of residents now engaged in the process.

“I commend you for wanting to make it right this time, wanting to do it right, and I believe we are on the right track.”

The next Toward a Future for Schools meeting, this one concentrated on the future of teaching and learning in the district, happens Dec. 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Oceanside Middle School.

To view documents or get more information visit www.sd69.bc.ca.

In other news from the school board meeting Tuesday night in Parksville:

• Teachers have been having to enter data two or three times to complete students report cards due to the district’s current students information system. Morran, the teachers’ association president, spoke about the teachers’ frustration related to this issue at the school board meeting and said she is pleased to see that the board of education is weighing all viable options in considering the replacement of the current system BCeSIS, next year.

• The board of education will be working with staff from the Town of Qualicum Beach and the City of Parksville to identify possible cost sharing, after the motion was passed at Tuesday’s board meeting.

“We’re hoping something will come out of that to reduce our costs,” said trustee Ross Milligan.

• A motion was passed to have staff from the School Protection office give a presentation on loss history and risk management to trustees, after trustee Milligan discovered risk workers don’t visit the schools.

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