Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder
Further consultation on the Nanaimo District Secondary School capacity issue is what Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools staff is recommending to the board of trustees as they head into their March 29 meeting.
At its February board meeting, Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said the district was no longer contemplating any changes for September 2023. Now, staff are recommending additional time to “dig deeper” into the impact of any changes the board may make to address capacity at the high school.
The school district ran a month-long consultation, which wrapped at the end of February, and included online comments, in-person sessions with two parent advisory councils and one sports academy. The feedback had an impact on decision-making, the staff report to trustees says: “The community… [has] presented the potential impacts on students of the presented options in a manner that has shifted thinking and led to alternate conclusions.”
Staff are recommending next steps include speaking with students and parents who were not going to be impacted by the potential moves proposed in the school district’s consultation report, visiting schools on the Mainland with similar capacity issues, further consideration of how moving sport academies to another school could jeopardize the future of the programs and further costing of portable expansion and potential contribution to expanding the school.
“The district wants to acknowledge that the process has caused stress to potentially impacted students and their families,” the report says. “However, addressing the capacity issue at NDSS is extremely important.”
While the board has said its top priority is replacing NDSS through a seismic upgrade, which they hope to couple with an expansion, “given there is excess capacity in John Barsby and Cedar, it will be difficult to argue to the Ministry of Education and Child Care to fund the entirety of the expansion,” putting the district in a situation of either moving funds from its operating budget or selling land.
An overcapacity student population at NDSS has meant not enough spaces for elective and specialty classes and amenities as well as bathroom spaces, the district says. It has also learned students are regularly late to class due to crowded hallways.