School closure, reconfiguration talks start tonight

The public consultation for the planned school closure and grade re-configuration in Port Alberni is now underway.

The public consultation for the planned school closure and grade re-configuration is now underway.

The process will be rolled out in two phases.

The first phase is being held at ADSS tonight starting at 7 p.m. in the student common area. A second session will be held Wednesday, same place, starting at 4 p.m.

The sessions will present information about the plan and gather feedback about it from stakeholder groups. A second phase will see any school(s) identified for closure hosting special meetings to gather additional feedback. School closures would be phased in over two years.

A number of factors including low enrollment, under utilization, predicted enrollment trends and the availability of space at neighbouring schools are in play with identifying schools that can be closed.

Extreme budget pressures have forced the School District 70 into a corner, superintendent Cam Pinkerton said. The district has slashed spending, cut staff, and reduced programs and services but it has reached a breaking point.

“We are at a point where further reductions to student services cannot be sustained. At this time we must consider school closures to reduce our costs,” he said.

Trustees gave a greenlight to staff to develop recommendations about closures and grade re-configurations at their Jan. 28 meeting. According to Pinkerton though trustees have approved the K-7 and Grade 8-12 format, he said.

At the meeting, Pinkerton warned that declining enrollment and increased downloaded costs have left the district no alternative but to look at facilities.

“I respect that the prospect of school closure will be unsettling for many families and that you will have many questions about what may happen,” Pinkerton said in a letter to parents. “While I cannot offer all of the answers at this time, I can assure you that the school district is committed to conducting an open, and inclusive public consultation process.”

A final decision about a plan will be made by trustees no later than March 11, 2014. The date provides affected families with sufficient notice that their child’s school will close at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

People can also provide input on the school district’s website (www.sd70.bc.ca).

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

 

 

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