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'Community school' tag won't stop closures in Parksville Qualicum Beach

AUREN RUVINSKY

writer@pqbnews.com

People linking the possibility of the community schools and the facilities review, which may result in the closure of local schools, could be disappointed, according to district superintendent Rollie Koop.

With the idea being raised at public meetings, the School District 69 (Qualicum) Board of Education asked staff to bring an assessment of the community schools model, what it would take for a school to become one and what the benefits may be, to the May board meeting.

Trustee Julie Austin asked if there was a way to get the report earlier, pointing out budget decisions have to be made in April, but recognizing with everything else going on staff wouldn't be able to have it for the next board meeting in two weeks, before spring break.

"I would hate to see us loose the opportunity... to access some non-traditional funding avenues and access moneys for the school district," Austin said.

Koop said if there is a direct link between the two issues for trustees, they would clear the deck and get the report done, but "I'm not sure that even if you had that information, it would influence decisions about recommendations on the process."

He suggested that a school becoming a community school is a longer process than the current facilities review and possible school closures.

Trustee Eve Flynn supported the motion, but said she doesn't see it as a priority before the facilities review. "Our problem is 4,000 kids in 6,000 seats and this is a model of operating a school with certain community assists and services."

There are currently no community schools in the district. French Creek Elementary "operates somewhat as a community school," as board chair Lynette Kershaw put it, but isn't formally one, which requires specific things including a community school coordinator.

In the end trustees requested the report for their May meeting.

• The Board of Education passed their 2013/14 final budget of $49.1 million, just in time for the provincial deadline, with updated figures from the preliminary budget approved early in the school year. Because balanced budgets are required, they are using $583,031 from reserves to cover an operating deficit. The biggest change from the preliminary budget is a total of $223,926 in increased wage and benefit costs.

• In anticipation of possible changes to school uses based on the facilities review, the board voted to suspend their School Catchment Areas policy, pending its decisions after the 90-day public consultation period. If schools are closed, and/or grade levels are moved, a student's designated school could change in the catchment area policy.

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