Options for closing and reconfiguring schools in the Alberni Valley include closing three elementary schools, School District 70 superintendent Cam Pinkerton said.
Pinkerton outlined the options to more than 90 people at an information session on Tuesday night.
“There is no ‘do nothing’ in this. We think you have to, or should, close schools,” Pinkerton said.
Last week, school trustees gave staff the go-ahead to come up with options that involved closing some schools and reconfiguring the rest to Grades K-7 and 8-12. Tuesday’s session is the first of two the district held this week.
Pinkerton outlined three scenarios.
The first scenario involves closing Wood, Gill and Eighth Avenue elementary schools; re-configuring the remaining schools to K-7; re-purposing Wood to be part of Alberni District Secondary School, which would be converted to Grades 8-12. The move would be completed in one fell swoop, Pinkerton said. He emphasized that Wood would not be used solely for Grade 8s coming to the high school.
The second scenario involves two options done over two years. Option 1 involves closing only Wood the first year, converting other elementary schools to K-6, middle schools to Grade 7-8, and ADSS Grade 9-12. The second year, Gill and Eighth would be closed; John Howitt, AW Neill and Maquinna would convert to Grades K-6; Alberni Elementary would become an all-French school; Dunn and Neill would convert to Grades K-7; and ADSS and Wood Grades 8-12.
Option 2 involves closing Eighth in year one, and converting other schools to K-6, 7-8 and 9-12. Year two would see Gill and Wood closed and converting other schools to K-7 and 8-12.
The third scenario would be done over three phases. Wood would close in the first phase and other schools retain their current configuration. Phase two would see a district-wide conversion to K-6 and 7-8. ADSS would remain Grade 9-12. Phase three would involved closing Gill and Eighth, reconfiguring to K-7 and 8-12. Alberni would also be a full-French school in this scenario.
(Another version of the third scenario would look the same but would involve closing Eighth first.)
The physical condition of schools will be taken into account, Pinkerton said. Gill has ranked low in this regard in the district’s annual facility audit, he added.
Student enrolment decline is also a factor. When enrolment falls below 160 students it’s a concern, Pinkerton said. Eighth Avenue is near that mark now. Most of the decline is in North Port; Gill will be at the mid-100 mark and Neill in the mid-200 mark in the next two years.
EJ Dunn has a capacity of 550 students and can absorb K-5. Neill has a capacity of 500 and can absorb new students as well.
ADSS has a capacity of 1,100 and can absorb the more than 240 Grade 8 students that are expected to go there.
No matter what the scenario, the district is suggesting using Eighth Avenue Elementary to house the VAST program as well as the school board office. Two parties have expressed interest in leasing the existing school board office on Roger Street, Pinkerton said.