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Board Considers School Closures as Part of Facility Plan Recommendations

November 18, 2015

​The Board of Education for School District 72 has some tough decisions to make, including whether or not to close two elementary schools within the greater Campbell River area.

At the November 17 public board meeting, Superintendent Tom Longridge and Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick provided the board with a draft facility plan containing seven recommendations from the district’s senior management team on possible actions the board could take to address the district’s aging facilities and surplus space.

According to the report, “many of School District 72’s schools are anywhere from 30 to 50 years old and were constructed when society had very different expectations for the delivery of education and technological needs. It is currently challenging to serve vulnerable students, get technology in the hands of our students, and enhance our community connections in a manner that we would like because of the distribution and utilization of space and the condition of our schools, as well as to meet the other objectives of the strategic plan.”

The recommendations are identified over three phases during the next 10 years.

Phase one includes a recommendation to close two elementary schools within the greater Campbell River area by the end of June 2016. The independently conducted facility review found that out of 175 available elementary classrooms, 69 are currently not used due to declining enrolment. According to the report, closing two elementary schools within the greater Campbell River area would help the district address the issue of excess space as this is where there is the largest number of empty classrooms.

Phase two recommendations include: reviewing and resourcing technology, by reinvesting technology-related savings realized through possible school closures into technology support and infrastructure amongst other district schools; reviewing rural school facility use to possibly ‘right size’ buildings or examine alternative ways to provide an educational program for students; a renewal of Cedar Elementary School either as a rebuild of the school or, at minimum, moving the school’s population to a different site; a change to the elementary school catchment (boundary) areas to allow for a more equal distribution of students across the district; and the sale of surplus properties at Rock Bay, on Stuart Island and McPhedran Street, as well as the old Evergreen Elementary. Phase two is identified as years two through four of the plan, or September 2016 to June 2019.

Phase three, in year five or September 2019, features a recommendation to examine the viability of a new secondary school either to combine Carihi and Timberline into one new building or as a rebuild of Carihi Secondary. The report states that “by combining the school populations or possibly moving to a one-school, two-campus approach there could be greater programming options for students.” 

While the recommendations are identified as a five year timeline, they could take up to 10 years to be fully complete given possible construction of new buildings.

The Board of Education committed to developing a long term strategy for School District 72 facilities as part of their 2014-2018 strategic plan. The board had directed senior management to conduct a review that examined district buildings, their condition, and resource allocations and then to develop a draft facility plan on how to possibly address the challenges facing the district and enhance facilities for learning.

A facility review was also necessitated as a Ministry of Education requirement that all districts have a 10 year facility plan and School District 72’s facility plan has expired. The amount of unused space within a district and schools is also becoming a larger factor for the Ministry as they decide which districts to grant money to for building improvements, repairs and/or new construction as surplus space still has heating and maintenance costs.

Trustees will now have to give thoughtful deliberation to the many factors contained within the draft plan and determine whether they will proceed with the recommendations in their entirety or only proceed with some of them.

The draft facility plan can be found attached at the bottom of this news item and the Board of Education welcomes feedback and comments for trustees’ consideration in advance of the board making any decisions.

Feedback and comments can be sent by November 30 to facilities.plan@sd72.bc.ca or by mail to the School District 72 Board of Education, c/o the Secretary-Treasurer’s office, 425 Pinecrest Road, Campbell River BC, V9W 3P2.