The school district has signed an agreement with the town and the Society of Organized Services to “explore re-purposing options” for Qualicum Beach Elementary School.
The school, which sits in a high-profile location in the downtown village neighbourhood, is one of four that School District 69 closed in April due to a budget crunch caused by declining enrolment district-wide.
The school district, town and SOS scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss the plan. The news release issued by the school district Monday morning was headlined: “Integrated Family Services Centre Coming to Qualicum Beach.”
“Throughout the recent school district facility review process, it became very clear that if surplus school space became available there would be opportunities for partnership and innovation,” the district said in its news release. “The school district is pleased to announce the signing of an intent agreement to explore re-purposing options on the former Qualicum Elementary School site along with District 69 Society of Organized Services and the Town of Qualicum Beach.”
“The parties will work together to promote the development of a community hub that is recognized and valued as a gathering place for people of all ages and an access point for a wide range of community activities, events, programs and services,” the release continued.
Attempts by The NEWS to get comment from the leaders of the Save QBES group before deadline Monday were unsuccessful.
The school district said the grounds of QBES “will be developed with the following outcomes in mind:”
• Serve as a focal point for the community.
• Maintain activity and social vibrancy while preserving the potential for school use again in the future.
• Capitalize on existing community partnerships and leverage those relationships to enhance the scope and accessibility of services for individuals and families who live in Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas.
• Encourage social gathering and provide spaces for people to congregate and meet in both planned and incidental ways.
• Provide a facility and grounds that allow for local organizations and community groups to offer a range of activities, programs, services and events which address the needs of the community.
• Be a multi-purpose centre, emphasizing community information, social interaction, and community development/capacity-building.
• Include public and private services such as recreation, education, child care, family support services, health care or social support programs.
• Model and promote sustainable practices.
The school district said the Munchkinland Early Learning Adventure Centre and the Collaborative Education Alternate Program (CEAP) will continue to operate on the QBES site.
“The support of the Town of Qualicum Beach will be invaluable in helping establish this integrated family services centre as a place where individuals and families can access an array of support services In Qualicum Beach,” said the release. “Such an asset will certainly help to attract and retain families in the community and add to the wellbeing of citizens of all ages.”
Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell was quoted in the news release:
“This agreement offers a great deal of potential benefit for the community of Qualicum Beach,” said Stilwell. “The SOS and school district are to be congratulated for working together to ensure that this property continues to serve the needs of the community.”
The district said “very quickly” the parties will be convening a meeting of local groups, community service providers and private businesses that may be interested in having a presence in this facility.
This announcement comes on the heels of another related to a school that has been recently closed. The school district and the City of Parksville announced last month they are exploring options for a private international school on the grounds of Parksville Elementary School.
(See Thursday’s edition of The NEWS for more details on this story.)