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Qualicum School District postpones 'commons' closures decision

Board provides public notice period, will vote on issue at November meeting
Emily Roback, photographed with her son Noah, is frustrated the school board is considering closing the Craig Street Commons and Qualicum Commons.

The Qualicum School District's board of education has decided to postpone a decision on whether to close the Craig Street Commons and Qualicum Beach Commons as rental facilities.

The district announced in May it planned to close the commons buildings since there is approximately $4 million to $5 million in capital costs that need to be addressed between the two.

The school district shut down four elementary schools back in 2014 due to low enrolment, including Parksville Elementary and Qualicum Beach Elementary, now known as Craig Street Commons and Qualicum Commons, respectively.

Since then, organizations such as independent schools, daycares, community support agencies, dance studios and local businesses have all used the facilities to run their operations, according to Ron Amos, secretary-treasurer for the school district.

“Before our meeting today, it has come to light that interested parties are interested to discuss longer term solutions with the district and the board," said Trustee Eve Flynn, chairperson of the board during the June 25 meeting. "To potentially provide alternate options for this, and so I would ask that the board postpone this motion so that we can fulsomely consider these other viable opportunities other than outright closure of one or both of these sites."

A motion to postpone the decision until the board's November meeting was approved unanimously.

Emily Roback hopes the school district does not close the commons facilities, where she recently learned her son Noah had been accepted to a child care program. She spent more than a year on a waiting list for different child care locations in the area.

“When he turned a year old — still no space, so I was taking him to work. He was on my back and I’m doing chiropractic," Roback said. “It’s frustrating because I don’t have a spouse, I’m doing everything myself. I’m working, I’m having to be two people at once. I’m also profoundly deaf. Communication is by email or text.”

Since the future of that child care location is uncertain, Roback is considering alternatives, such as a place in Nanoose Bay. But that would mean a lot more driving, since she works just a few minutes away from the Craig Street Commons.

“It’s the first daycare that has actually given me a break and now it’s like, ‘oh well we’re going to change things up’," she said.

In between now and November, the school district intends to carry out a public notice period to allow interested parties to provide feedback on other options for the two buildings.

"The aspect of looking for a generative dialogue, looking for feedback from the public on these two facilities," said Amos. "Recognizing that we don’t want to presuppose that there’s not options out there, recognizing what we’ve been able to share up to this point is the fact that these facilities are  — we don’t have the dollars, if you want, to be able to support them in a capital nature."

Capital costs in the millions of dollars must to be addressed, according to Amos, such as new roofing, HVAC units, electrical systems and boilers. There is approximately $3 million worth of capital costs associated with Qualicum Commons and about $1.8 million associated with Craig Street Commons.

Since they are considered non-educational facilities, the commons are not eligible for funding through the Ministry of Education and Childcare Capital Program, so the work would need to be funded by the school district.

Amos said he will bring a report to the board in October, at which point it will be up to them to propose putting the motion back on the table in November. The motion postponed by the board called for the closures to be effective July 1, 2025.

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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