Opinion

EDITORIAL: School land use option arises

It didn't take long for someone to come up with a good idea for the use of vacated school properties.

The school district, along with the city, a foundation and a company announced plans this week for an International School, likely on the site of the soon-to-be-closed Parksville Elementary.

The plan is still in its infancy and nothing has been finalized. We like what we are hearing so far, but we have more than a few concerns.

Housing students in a 'village' concept at Parksville Elementary, close to many of the city amenities, is a great idea. It's close to the park, the beach, the library, grocery stores and other businesses.

We cannot visualize how this 'village' would look or work, but it's early days. However, we can't help but think about how School District 69 ran its international student program, housing up to 15 youngsters of varying ages in standard-sized homes.

The district's explanation at the time was, this was something the students were used to in their Korean homeland. That, we said at the time and still believe, did nothing to give the international students a Canadian experience, which we thought was the whole idea — or at least one of the goals of the program, aside from it being a money-maker for the district.

Fast forward to this idea for Parksville. It's a private enterprise, which means it aims to make money.

Nothing wrong with that, but Parksville will be scarred by bad media reports world-wide if this is something that isn't top-notch.

The living quarters would have to be clean, safe and comfortable. The students would need to have supervision (the level depending on ages, of course), but also be free to experience Parksville and some Canadiana. Health-care needs to be a consideration, as well as what is fed to these students, if indeed there are communal meals.

While we're not usually inclined to stick our necks into the practices of private businesses, we believe this is a little different. The taxpayers own the land, for starters, and the reputation of the city is on the line, too.

Provided the focus is to provide a safe, valuable experience for foreign students, we believe this first step in re-purposing the closed elementary schools of the region is a good one. Now, what about that prime spot in downtown Qualicum Beach?

— Editorial by John Harding

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