Rally to save Qualicum Beach Elementary School set for Saturday

"Learning needs to break free of the pedantic pressures of the past," says Anne Skipsey

The effort to save Qualicum Beach Elementary School (QBES) is shifting focus to the community school model and taking the message to the streets.

There will be a gathering and walk in support of the school this Saturday afternoon as part of the newly-formed Qualicum Beach Community School Steering Committee’s efforts to reach out.

“We believe the funding challenges faced by the Board of Education have presented us with an opportunity to build a healthier, more inclusive and cohesive school and community,” said committee co-chair Anne Skipsey.

The upheaval in the system could be an opportunity to change the way primary education is delivered, she said. “Learning needs to break free of the pedantic pressures of the past.”

Planning many community meetings, the first was at the Qualicum Beach Seniors Activity Centre Tuesday to speak to a couple dozen people about the community school model and the school’s importance in the core of the town.

“Right now, students can walk from school to Ravensong for swimming lessons, the museum for a history lesson, tour the fire hall or library, visit the town hall or the seniors’ centers,” Skipsey said.

“Our goal is not only to demonstrate the geographical advantages of QBES in its current location, but to also generate community awareness and involvement.”

The school is one of four that could be closed (with Parksville, Winchelsea and French Creek elementary schools) in a plan recommended by School District 69 (Qualicum) staff to move to a K-7 and grade 8-12 model, eliminating middle schools to save operating costs.

The community school group grew out of a group looking to save the school and it is gaining momentum.

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek attended the meeting with a letter from the central and north Island United Way expressing interest in working within a Qualicum Beach community school as they do in other areas.

Looking for support for the community school model and calling on the school board to delay a decision for a year, the group is holding the public rally and walk “to demonstrate the benefits of maintaining a central location for elementary student education,” Skipsey said.

“We will be gathering, rain or shine, beside The Old School House (TOSH) at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 5 and walking a 1.8 km route around town,” she said. “Everyone is welcome to join us at the beginning, the middle or the end of the walk.”

There will be refreshments, activities and entertainment at the end, where organizers hope to gather ideas that could help with the goal of creating the district’s first community school.

Check www.acebc.org for more on community schools, and saveQBES.com for the local group.

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