The shuttered Parksville Elementary School will remain available to community groups as a rental, but there are no plans to sell the facility or convert it to a homeless shelter, School District 69 officials said last week.
The school is one of four elementary schools closed by the district in a restructuring in 2014, following years of declining enrolment district-wide. There are currently daycare operations using some of Parksville Elementary’s former classrooms, and the gym is rented on a per-use basis by the Regional District of Nanaimo and other area service providers, SD69 superintendent Rollie Koop said.
“We’re entertaining expressions of interest from folks who may be looking at renting space in the building, but at this point we have nothing on the go,” said Koop.
Renate Sutherland, executive director of the Society of Organized Services (SOS) and co-chair of the Oceanside Task Force on Homelessness, said those groups have not approached the district about using the building for a homeless shelter.
“The task force has been actively looking for a suitable space for some time, a couple of years, at least,” said Sutherland. “As we said at the homeless forum, it’s about more than four walls and a roof. We think we could find something a bit more suitable. Time will tell if we run out of other options, but it’s not on our radar at this point.”
SOS is the anchor tenant in Qualicum Commons, the former Qualicum Beach Elementary School. That building is essentially the crown jewel of the district’s four defunct school properties, with several long-term licensees or leaseholders providing steady revenue, in addition to single-use or short-term rentals, said Koop.
Winchelsea Elementary, another one of the schools closed in 2014, is now Winchelsea Place and houses the district’s resource centre, PASS-Woodwinds Alternate School and Maple Academy, the international student program. Space in the building is also leased to the nonprofit Springboard Family Centre Society for day care.
The former Parksville Elementary and French Creek Elementary, in Coombs, have not achieved that level of use, but there are no plans by the district to sell either of them.
Saanich School District announced last week that it had accepted a conditional offer for the sale of one of its closed schools, which had been on the market since 2012. But the four schools recently closed in Parksville Qualicum will remain the property of the district, SD69 board chair Eve Flynn said.
“We haven’t even put it on the table,” Flynn said of selling the properties. “They generate revenue for us and are available for the use of the community. There are strong feelings on this board that these are public assets.”
One school district property that is expected to hit the market in the near future is the now-vacant site of the former Errington Elementary School, which was burned down by arsonists in 2010 after having been closed in 1999. Part of the property came from a Crown land donation and will be reverted back to the Crown, with negotiations under way for a potential exchange for another Crown parcel adjacent to the new Errington school, said Flynn.
Any proceeds from sale of the portion of land owned by the district have been designated to upgrade road access, egress and parking improvements at the new Errington school, Koop added.
“That was a decision of a previous (school) board,” he said. “The board of the day decided to put (the school) on the market but no offer was received. When we went through the school closures and reconfiguration, access and egress issues and parking shortages were identified at the current Errington site.”
Sale of public school properties are done through a process that includes consultation with the Ministry of Education, said Koop. If the property is wholly owned by the district, it would typically keep the proceeds of a sale.