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Qualicum Beach council backs community school trial

Our health care and education systems in this country are bankrupt according to Dr. Ansel Updegrove, but creating community schools may help turn that around.

Updegrove appeared as a delegation at a Qualicum Beach council meeting Monday asking the town to write a letter to the school district board requesting the closure of Qualicum Beach Elementary School be deferred for a minimum of one year and that it become designated a community school.

"To have a more multi-purpose facility is thinking outside the box and that's where community schools have an advantage because they're not working under the same constraints," he said.

Updegrove is currently working with the Health and Wellness sub-committee of the Qualicum Beach Community School Steering Committee and is a co-director of the British Columbia Chiropractic Association's Wellness Council.

Updegrove said community schools brings in resources from the local community, they qualify for a number of grants, they improve quality of life, they bring communities together and reduce crime, among other benefits.

"We are seeing communities like Surrey that started out with one community school and now they are going district-wide."

A Community School is open extended hours and offers services not otherwise offered in schools. It brings in people of all ages and walks of life to utilize a facility (which is the most under-utilized of all public facilities), instead of the standard 9 a.m. to 3:30 hours.

The World Health Organization has been recommending for the last 10 years to combine education and healthcare, Updegrove said, and if community schools can focus on prevention and early health intervention studies show a 17 to 1 return on investment.

"When you focus on the socialization of your community there's an exponential increase in health, long term, for all residents."

Councillor Bill Luchtmeijer asked if one year would be enough time to come up with a business plan.

Updegrove said they have been working diligently on the plan and should have it completed by the end of the week.

Coun. Scott Tanner echoed comments made at a rally held in Qualicum Beach Saturday.

"If you don't try it you'll never know if it's going to work and that would be the message I would give to our schools trustees, give it a whirl."

Luchtmeijer said he would like to take the motion a step forward and add that council would be prepared to work with the school board and the community school should it be designated such.

The amended motion passed unanimously.

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