School dialogue sessions pause

Enrolment and budget concerns the focus of new initiative

Facilitator Lisa Payne and participant Rob Gibbs during the community dialogue session at Kwalikum Secondary Oct. 24.

Facilitator Lisa Payne and participant Rob Gibbs during the community dialogue session at Kwalikum Secondary Oct. 24.

School District 69 (Qualicum) has completed phase one of the community dialogue process meant to help trustees make decisions around enrolment and budget concerns.

With many volunteer facilitators from the community, overseen by Dr. Neil Smith, the first phase was meant to poll resident’s concerns and priorities and build expertise available in the community.

“They were in my opinion very successful sessions,” superintendent Jim Ansell said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

People can still take part online, he said, but there will be a bit of a break in the public activity while new school trustees join the board and while they tabulate the results from the public sessions over the holiday season.

“I’m in the process of pulling out the themes and big ideas,” Ansell said explaining the results will be presented back to the public for the next phase which will delve into the options and look in detail at what sort of trade offs the community would make based on the priorities set out in phase one.

“Fundamentally, this district, like lots, is experiencing declining enrolment,” he said in September and explained that leads to extra capacity in the schools that the district and community have to decide how to use.

The third and final phase will reflect the input, get more into the options and present a narrowed list of recommendations to the board.

Ansell previously said the turnout at the public sessions was lower than hoped, but the feedback they were getting at the small table discussions was excellent.

Around 60 people attended the Oct. 24 dialogue at Kwalikum Secondary for example, including a large number of district staff, trustees, facilitators and candidates in the municipal and school board elections.

The process grew out of dissatisfaction with the way an external report was introduced last year that suggested schools could be closed due to declining enrolment.

The board later apologized for that first meeting and eventually committed to not making any school facility decisions until the spring of 2012, promising this new dialogue process.

The current process is meant as a fresh start not based on last year’s notorious report.

Ansell praised the hard work of the independent planning committee that designed the process, modeled on successful ones around the province.

Extensive notes, questions and answers from each session are now on the district website at www.sd69.bc.ca, where there will eventually be more information on the next steps.

 

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