School utilization rates in School District 69 have improved “dramatically,” Superintendent Rollie Koop said at a school board meeting on Tuesday.
“The exercise that we undertook in reconfiguring the district and closing schools was to improve our utilization of space,” he said.
Using enrolment data as of the end of September, Koop said elementary schools are sitting at 78 per cent capacity (not including international students), which is a 10 per cent increase from last year. Secondary school increased by nine per cent to sit at 79 per cent.
Last year, middle schools were at 60 per cent. Koop said 95 per cent is ideal. There are no longer any middle schools in the district after a reconfiguration ended in the closure of four elementary schools this year.
Ballenas Secondary School has the highest use at 98 per cent — when international students are included, it rises to 103 per cent. Kwalikum Secondary School has one of the lowest capacity rate at 63 per cent (69 per cent with international students). Only Arrowview (59 per cent) and False Bay on Lasqueti Island (40 per cent) are lower.
This was the last board meeting for two trustees who did not seek re-election: Ross Milligan and board chair Lynette Kershaw.
Milligan asked if the board should look into moving Ballenas students to KSS to balance these numbers, but Koop said it’s up to the parents to choose where their children go to school.
“It’s absolutely not unheard of for secondary schools to operate well over 100 per cent capacity,” he added.
According to Trustee Julie Austin, these numbers don’t always reflect reality. Some lower-capacity schools can feel like they are bursting while other buildings with higher capacity rates can feel spacious.
In other school board news from Tuesday night’s meeting:
• The board has signed an agreement with the RDN to allow the District to manage some of the French Creek Community School grounds as a community park. Koop said the lease allows the board to take back the property to use as a school site.
• The graduating rate, that is the number of eligible Grade 12 students who graduated, in 2013-14 rose from 89-94 per cent.
• The board voted to seek permission from the Minister of Education to withdraw $191,036 from the District’s Land Capital and $147,442 from the restricted capital to augment the funding for a parking/turnaround areas for Oceanside and Errington elementary schools.
• The board adopted a Capital Project Bylaw which brings $564,724.52 to the district for use on school buses.
• The board voted against a recommendation from Milligan to review the process of electing trustees by particular regions (called ‘areas’). Milligan said changes should be made to encourage more people to run so as to ensure “proper democracy.”