It may take the high road and it may be constructive, but when the Town of Qualicum Beach sends its next letter to the school board regarding the possible closure of the local high school, it will also be pointed.
Council members agreed unanimously Monday night to send the letter to the board after being turned down flat in their request to have the town’s consultant address the next board meeting.
The consultant, Dr. Doug Player, presented his report on the options for keeping Kwalikum Secondary School open at the July council meeting and had planned to present that same report to the school board.
However, in a letter to council, School District 69 (Qualicum) chair Eve Flynn said the board of trustees didn’t need to hear the presentation and turned the request down.
“Both the superintendant and I were in attendance when Dr. Player made his presentation to the town council and (we) updated the board on that presentation,” she said in her letter. “As well, all trustees have a copy of Dr. Player’s report. As this board is well-informed on the report, a further presentation is not necessary and your request to have Dr. Player appear before our board is not approved.”
sue Monday night, Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek called the decision to deny the request unfortunate.
“I suggest we respond to the board, expressing our disappointment and at the same time expressing our desire to work together.”
Coun. Barry Avis agreed, noting council has worked to find ways to keep the school open since the day after they heard about the possibility of its closure.
“We want to look at things that can be taught at the school,” he said. “We opened our arms and said we want to be involved, the residents want to be involved, so for the board to say they don’t need to hear Dr. Blair’s report is a little disheartening, because I thought we were on a path of co-operation.”
Coun. Jack Wilson uttered a note of caution however, suggesting that such a letter might backfire.
“It’s their jurisdiction to make the decision,” he said.
His concern was echoed by Coun. Mary Brouillet, who stressed that council should take a consultative approach.
“Can this letter say we want them to make better decisions?” she asked. “If we send an invitation to the new superintendent, he has not heard the report. Maybe we should invite him to one of our open houses.”
Westbroek agreed that council should continue to work with the board.
“To invite the board members to and the new administration to open up a dialogue with our consultant and our staff would be wonderful,” he said. “This letter is in a very positive vein and encourages them to open up to the input we are trying to provide.”
In his report to council, Player recommended that deliberations about the future of Kwalikum Secondary focus not only on decreasing enrolment, but also on capacity, revenue and facilities usage. He also urged that the cultural, social and economic impacts on Qualicum Beach be taken into consideration.
Player also stressed the need for the board to put an emphasis on seeking solutions to maintain the facility as a viable secondary school.
In response to his report, council called on the school board to appoint a task force of Kwalicum Secondary students and staff, whose mandate would be to find ways to create distinction for the school, through unique program offerings. As well, the proposed task force would be mandated to engage the thoughts and expertise of the local community.
The town also offered to help the board explore opportunities to repopulate the school with community resources, such as the Family Resources Association or the Oceanside Volunteer Group.
Impacts on the lucrative international student program were also stressed.