‘Save Qualicum Beach Elementary School’ group meets tonight at civic centre

Group is hosting meetings to discuss options related to how the district can keep the school open: 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) at civic centre

  • Feb. 18, 2014 3:00 p.m.

A group of concerned citizens is gaining momentum in its effort to save Qualicum Beach Elementary School from being closed, according to its organizers.

Anna Sjoo, whose children currently attend QBES, said the group has held meetings with local and regional governments, as well as school trustees, to fight the facility’s closure, as currently proposed by school district staff.

“We are encouraged by the responses we are getting, especially from the Town of Qualicum Beach. Discussions have been focused on ways we can generate additional revenue as well as how to save on expenses,” said Sjoo, who along with another Qualicum Beach resident, Anne Skipsey, have spearheaded the grassroots drive to save the school.

The group’s next meeting is tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 18 in the West Hall at the Qualicum Beach Civic Center. A presentation on community schools at 6 p.m. will be followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Anyone interested in the fate of QBES is welcome to attend.

In a news release issued Saturday, Sjoo said the group’s members recently attended a consultation session hosted by the school district to gather more information and to address funding and expense projections that have prompted staff to direct the board to close four district elementary schools, including QBES. The group, she said, has expressed concern that closing four of 14 schools will result in only a 2.5 per cent reduction in district expenses.

Skipsey said the district needs to take a step back and look at the bigger picture for Qualicum Beach, where the downtown core is slated to lose a vibrant social and economic driver.

“QBES is the heart of Qualicum Beach,” she said. “Once you take that away, it will never come back. The board has to realize that our kids and our community all benefit from being in that location. We want the board to reconsider the staff proposal and keep the school open while we work with government, private enterprise and other institutions to investigate new ways to bring money into the district.”

To that end, the group is hosting meetings to discuss options like public-private partnerships, community schooling, cause-marketing campaigns and classroom rentals to local businesses.

Skipsey said other jurisdictions have succeeded in developing innovative ways to help fill district coffers when government funding is lacking. However, she also notes that district staffers have not yet addressed the lion’s share of the budget, which is expended as employee wages and benefits.

“The superintendent has said up to 90 per cent of the money goes to staff. But at this time it appears they’re only looking at cost-cutting measures on the remaining 10 per cent, which are the schools,” said Skipsey.

According to information posted on the district’s website, 25 employees are earning over $100,000 a year, with the highest on the 2012 list at more than $170,000. Skipsey said a large number of employees are reaching retirement age, but savings on replacing senior staff do not appear to be considered in their budgets.

And while plummeting enrolment numbers are being blamed for the district’s financial woes, Sjoo said QBES is thriving, with student numbers actually on the rise.

“We keep hearing from families who have recently moved into town, and many of them chose to live here because of the central location of QBES. Our recommendation . . . is to shut down the middle school instead and retain QBES at the center of the community.”

The group has also created a website where visitors can download petition forms, e-mail district trustees, or join a Facebook group to stay informed. For more information, go to SaveQBES.com.

— NEWS Staff/Submitted by Anna Sjoo

Just Posted

Police go on hunt for distracted drivers in Parksville Qualicum Beach

One motorist ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt and using a cellphone while driving

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

More units added to Parksville’s Corfield site

Supportive housing project progressing rapidly

Unique type of rock show at Parksville beach

WATCH: Rock art from youngsters and adults alike on display

Stolen Bentley spotted going wrong way down highway found in Summerland

The car has been recorded going the wrong way on the Coquihalla, found two days later

Illegal cannabis club in Port Alberni ticketed again

RCMP seize cannabis, issue fine for second time in five months

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

2 fires in Victoria caused by cigarettes prompts warning from deputy fire chief

Two separate fires caused by cigarette butts were avoidable

Most Read