School closures an option

Cost-cutting measures in Parksville Qualicum Beach School District 69 may not be enough

Closing a school is an option the local school board may have to consider in order to cut costs, trustees heard during a meeting Tuesday night.

“Obviously the talk of closure, that’s one thing we may have to consider,” School District 69’s secretary-treasurer Erica Bailey said at the board’s regular meeting. “And there are other options we can consider.”

This was the first meeting for the board following a summer break. Bailey reported on work done over the summer to help meet budget targets and balance the budget. At the last school board meeting in the spring, a $1.2 million deficit was reported for the upcoming school year.

Bailey said operations and maintenance staff with the school district had a busy summer closing sections of schools and classrooms to save money, as well as portables which cost the most to heat and provide electricity. In the end, 33 rooms or 28,050 sq. feet of space was closed, nearly equivalent to all the classrooms at Kwalikum Secondary School. The financial savings are projected to be $45,700, but that’s only a fraction of what could be saved if an entire school was closed, Bailey said Tuesday in her report. Sharing spaces with other organizations is a good alternative to closures, she mentioned, as is done at Family Place.

According to Ministry of Education specifications, many of the schools in the district are much larger than they need to be, Bailey said, especially the middle schools and Ballenas Secondary School.

And although that makes them “nice and pretty and airy,” they cost more in heating and maintenance, she said.

A number of other cost-saving measures were implemented over the summer, targeted by new general manager of operations, Dino Stiglich. These included changing bathroom dispensers, switching floor care products and changing of suppliers.

But at the end of the day, an extensive review of local schools needs to be done this school year in order to consolidate space and better match projected enrolment, Bailey concluded.

“This is a big financial problem we have to deal with,” she said.

Acting Superintendent Rollie Koop updated the board on enrolment. Last year was the first year that saw an increase in students at the elementary school level, but that was only by one student, said Koop. This year’s projections show an increase of 63 students in elementary schools. There is still a significant decline in enrolment at the middle and secondary levels, he said.