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Passionate pleas for Qualicum Beach Elementary School

Though there was passion and a lot of constructive feedback at a meeting at Qualicum Beach Elementary School Monday as part of the district's 90-day consultation period on possible school closures.

Lynette Kershaw, chair of the Board of Education of School District 69 (Qualicum) said that while the board planned extensive consultation, "we hadn't originally planned meetings at the four schools slated for closure."

The QBES meeting was added recently and drew enough people to fill the school gym with little official promotion, said Anne Skipsey, a member of Supporters of QBES.

The board started the consultation period at the end of January in anticipation of making decisions based on a facilities review which recommends a K-7 and grade 8-12 education model and the closure of four elementary schools: Qualicum Beach, Parksville, Winchelsea and French Creek to help cover a growing operational deficit.

Skipsey said she was pleased with the meeting and the open format, which included a brief introduction and background from the trustees and then a lot of time for people to say whatever they wanted. Paper was also available for people to write comments that were addressed later in the meeting.

Skipsey said she spoke about the need for the trustees to listen to the public and remain open to the ideas. She said a lot of people were enthusiastic about the idea of the community school model helping to save the school.

"I understand the passion, the anger, the frustration," said Kershaw who pointed out that "four of five of us (trustees) where there three years ago trying to save (Kwalikum Secondary)."

She said there were a lot of good detailed questions about the numbers that she felt they were able to clear up.

She repeated that the trustees haven't made any decisions. They are listening to the public and it is still theoretically possible to save schools if they can come up with a realistic business plan.

Trustees have now held meetings at QBES, Winchelsea and French Creek Community School with meetings scheduled at Parksville Elementary (7 p.m. Wed., March 12), Qualicum Beach Middle School (7 p.m., Mon., March 10) and Springwood Middle School (7 p.m. Wed., April 16).

Check www.sd69.bc.ca for more on the 'facilities review' and SaveQBES.com for more on the group of supporters.

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