The local school board can’t catch a break.
However, as they say in the sports world, you make your own breaks.
A week from today, the District 69 board of trustees are scheduled to make some decisions about their multi-million-dollar budget shortfall. Specifically, they are to address a facilities review report that’s been in front of them for months now. The recommendation from staff is the option to close four elementary schools, two in Parksville and one each in Coombs and Qualicum Beach.
The district has been through its mandated 90-day consultation period. For the most part, they have heard the hue and cry of Qualicum Beach residents fearful of the future of a town centre without the vibrancy of the elementary school.
There has been passion, but there have also been some constructive suggestions, not the least of which is the community school model, a plea to keep the elementary school in Qualicum Beach open for a year to see how this would work, both financially and otherwise.
If the board hasn’t had enough to think about, teachers are set this week to ramp up job action, which will start with them pulling back from non-classroom duties.
Then there’s the Fraser Institute report card, which has the district’s largest school (Ballenas) sitting in 266th place out of 293 high schools in the province.
Meanwhile, there’s no help from the provincial government. Both Parksville MLA Michelle Stilwell and the education minister say the government is tightening its belt, so school districts must do the same.
We are not confident this school board will make any clear-cut decision next week. The modus operandi of this group of elected officials is to delay, study, delay some more and put decisions off.
We hope hundreds of young people, and their parents, and taxpayers, will have a clear idea this time next week about what schools will be open in September under what kind of grades make-up.
The math will not change. It has not changed during these months of consultation and will not change in the next five-10 years. There are 6,000 spaces for students in this district and 4,000 students. It’s time for this school board to make some tough decisions and then work to mitigate the fallout to ensure our youth are getting the best education possible under the financial circumstances.
— Editorial by John Harding