While they wait on negotiations between the provincial government and the teachers’ union, District 69 schools are ready to welcome teachers and students, despite the complications of school closures and reconfigurations over the summer.
There are still late details to work out, trustees heard at Monday’s board meeting.
Secretary treasurer Erica Bailey said last year at this time the district had 840 students registered to ride the bus. So far this year, that number is just over 500.
“That’s concerning because we don’t know if that’s indicative of the the fact that there are fewer people that need to ride the bus or, as we think is more likely, there’s a whole lot of people who haven’t applied,” she said, pointing out this complicates the district’s efforts to design an efficient system.
She urges parents to register as soon as possible, both those requiring busing, and any students in general who are not yet registered with the district for school.
Because of the strike, parents are asked to register at the board office in the PCTC in Parksville.
Asked about the lack of sidewalks for younger students heading to different schools after the reconfiguration, superintendent Rollie Koop said it was out of the board’s hands.
“We’re well aware of the issues, they’ve been part of the conversation right from the earliest phases of our conversations about potential reconfiguring our middle schools,” he said, highlighting Despard Avenue between Craig Street and the Alberni Highway near Springwood Elementary and “the Wembley-Church Road corridor” on the way to Oceanside Elementary.
Koop said while the district is aware, “the board of trustees doesn’t control community infrastructure.” He also said the situation is further complicated in the Wembley-Church case by the fact that Wembley Road crosses from Parksville into the RDN and back into Parksville.
The district will be providing what Koop called a safety bus site at the former Parksville Elementary School, transferring students that used to attend there to the new Springwood and Oceanside elementaries.
Both Koop and Bailey expressed “a huge thanks and congratulations to staff for the school conditions,” as Bailey put it, admitting she had “a few moments of doubt” early in the summer.
Unlike most districts, due to the reconfigurations, all students in District 69 are scheduled to start class on Thursday, Sept. 4, also beginning an hour later and ending an hour earlier than usual that day.
Assuming the strike ends, elementary students should report to last year’s teacher at their new school.