There is no “good” decision to be made by School District 70 trustees about closing and reconfiguring schools in the Alberni Valley.
“We can’t make a decision that pleases half the people and disappoints the other half or vice versa,” trustee Rosemarie Buchanan said. “Basically, it comes down to choosing the least of the evils.”
Trustees will be discussing options and information about the pending reconfiguration at their meeting on March 11.
Trustees gave a green light to staff to develop recommendations about closures and grade re-configurations at their Jan. 28 meeting. A K-7 and Grade 8-12 format has been approved. Extreme budget pressures have forced School District 70 to make the move.
Three scenarios were assembled by district staff and some trustees. The first scenario garnered the most feedback at public information sessions last month, trustee Rosemarie Buchanan said.
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.
Two other scenarios would see closures and reconfigurations done over two and three years.
Alberni Elementary would become an all-French school. Moving VAST and the school board office to Eighth Avenue is also part of the plan.
“I’ve heard people say that there should have been more than three scenarios laid out,” she said.
Buchanan kicked around the idea of all elementary schools going K-7, the high school 8-12 and closing the middle schools, but the suggestion didn’t go anywhere.
Elementary schools are already made for elementary age children. “Remember what a job it was to move the old high school to the new,” Buchanan said. “Well, the logistics of converting middle schools to elementary schools will be huge.”
If anything, trustees are dealing with a better informed public. “People are much clearer this year about understanding that we’re not in this position because we’re bad managers,” she said.
“We’re in this position because we’ve been handed a bunch of new bills that we’re expected to pay out of the existing budget.”