Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser

Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser

Emotions run high in Coombs over school closures

French Creek Community School, one of the four schools the district that may be closed, is the only school in Coombs

Superintendant of Schools Rollie Koop said trustees are facing “the most challenging decision you can ever make as somebody elected to represent a community.”

A midday public meeting was held Saturday at French Creek Community School where residents voiced their concerns about School District 69 senior administration’s recommendation to close down the only school in Coombs.

Parksville Elementary, Qualicum Beach Elementary and Winchelsea Elementary are also facing potential closures.

Emotions ran high at the meeting which saw Koop, School District Secretary Treasurer Erica Bailey, Alberni-Qualicum MLA Scott Fraser and school board trustees listen to questions and concerns from various individuals, including parents, grandparents, young students and employees of FCCS.

If FCCS is closed, existing students are slated to relocate to either Errington Elementary or the Qualicum Beach Middle School site, according to a facility report presented at the regular board meeting Jan. 28.

The school board is currently in the midst of a 90-day public consultation period, meaning the earliest a motion can pass acting on the recommendations is April 29.

The closure of the four schools would save $1,230,000 annually with other annual saving achieved in regards to maintenance. It would also address the 2,000 free spaces in schools as utilization would increase by 19 per cent in the district. The cost to bring facilities up to speed, including the addition of playgrounds for young children, daycares and other adjustments would be a one-time cost of around $650,000.

Over the next five years, the district deficit is predicted to grow to $3.6 million. But residents gave a passionate plea to save FCCS.

Fraser said closing FCCS is “a different type of school closure” in comparison to the other three schools on the chopping block.

“Closing FCCS will take children out of this community that we all love,” said Fraser, adding that he blames the Liberal government for putting residents of Coombs in this situation in the first place.  Fraser vowed to vote against the government’s proposed budget this week.

“I will do everything I can to stop the decision to close this school on your behalf,” said Fraser, who also promised to speak with the Minister of Education regarding the closure.

Coombs resident Sarah Roth said closing FCCS will “crush this community.”

“I understand this all comes down to dollars and cents and I get that is the bottom line for you,” said Roth, addressing the board. “But for this community the bottom line is our homes — this is our family and I’m sorry but by taking away this you take away our children.” Roth burst into tears on the spot, drawing emotion and a roaring applause from the crowd.

“If you take the people who are here and you disperse our children there is no reason to have a community here,” said Roth. “If you want to continue to maintain the thriving community that we have we need to figure out how to help you keep this school open.”

According to Roth, the small-scale nature of the 111-student community school is why she moved back to Coombs.

Roth said it will be “extremely detrimental” for current FCCS students to reintegrate into a larger school in a different community while being split up from many of their friends.

“They will lose a sense of identity and fall through the cracks,” said Roth, adding that if Parksville Elementary, Qualicum Beach Elementary and/or Winchelsea Elementary were to close, at least the students would stay within their community.

Just Posted

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased in Parksville

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Map of the site of a proposed 60-unit building project in French Creek. (RDN map)
Legal counsel wants board to award development permit for French Creek project

Issue is on agenda for RDN board meeting on June 22

The Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Society has outgrown its home at the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and will soon move to its new operations hall at the Qualicum Beach Airport. (PQB News file photo)
Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read