School closures save Qualicum district $1.5 million

With the financial impact clear, next is the release of comments from those affected

School District 69 put a number to last year’s school reconfigurations during their regular board meeting on Tuesday.

Superintendent Rollie Koop said the district will have about $1.58 million in additional funds thanks to the changes.  This year, however, the net savings was $1,139,908 due to a one-time reconfiguration payout of $435,993.

“We hit the target we were hoping to hit,” he said.

Koop said the savings were spent throughout the district based “on need” this year and were especially focused in adding professional staffing to support students and teachers.

The superintendent told The NEWS that the district originally decided to go forward with the reconfiguration when it faced the fact that operation costs would continue to rise while the district would continue to receive about $600,000 less each year as a result of declining enrolment.

“We were trying to get out of the cycle of scrambling,” he said.

The reconfigurations resulted in the closure of Qualicum Beach Elementary, Parksville Elementary, Winchelsea Elementary in Parksville (which now houses PASS/Woodwinds) and French Creek Elementary in Coombs. In his presentation to the board on Tuesday, Koop also said the process saw the elimination of 15 portables and space leased from VIU, as well as reduced administration, custodial, clerical and transport costs.

While the district has seen a reduction in its provincial government allocation due to the closures, as well as added insurance on the closed schools, Koop said there has been an increase in rental revenue.

Next, the superintendent said the district is taking a qualitative look at how the community feels about the reconfiguration.

To do this, SD 69 partnered with Thoughtexchange, which hosted a two-part online questionnaire and forum over the past month for district staff and the public.

In the first part of the exchange, Koop said 614 participants left 3,500 thoughts about the reconfiguration.

“I think it’s healthy,” he said of the discussion. “Some of what is happening right now should have happened at this time last year.”

Participants then reviewed and prioritized these thoughts in order to get a sense of the community’s shared values and priorities. As this second part of the exchange ends today, it has not been determined how many people took part.

Kelly Wray, president of the District Parents Advisory Council (DPAC), said some parents were concerned about privacy in the exchange, but Koop assured that the questionnaire was anonymous and moderated by Thoughtexchange to ensure no bullying or inappropriate comments occurred.

Using the data collected during the process, Thoughtexchange will next create a qualitative report. This will be presented to the board in fall 2015.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, acting president of the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association Norberta Heinrichs requested a meeting with the school board in the fall to discuss funding for a teacher mentorship program.

Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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