Parents at South Wellington Elementary School want to know why their sign reminding their south-end community of upcoming student registration deadlines for next year was recently taken down by school officials.
Andrea Bonkowski, a past president of the school’s parent advisory committee and a former two-term school trustee in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, said the South Wellington community is concerned that the school board may be in the process of targeting the small school for closure once again as a cost-saving measure.
South Wellington has a student population of approximately 80 students. Bonkowski said that, despite assurances from school board chairman Jamie Brennan that any potential school closures in the district won’t likely happen in the 2013-14 school year, a decision could be made that would see the school close its doors for the final time as early as this June.
The parents at South Wellington school have successfully fought three attempts to close their school in the last decade mainly by convincing trustees that the school’s closure would cause irreparable damage to their community.
After years of dealing with declining enrolment and fiscal restraint, the school board recently passed its strategic plan for education that concluded that the optimum number of students in elementary schools should be between 200 and 400 students and a number of schools in the district, including South Wellington, are currently well below requirements.
Dr. Doug Player, a former superintendent of the West Vancouver school district, has been hired by the district to co-ordinate the process, in which the school board is expected to make a number of long-anticipated decisions regarding its schools and other facilities and he will table his report along with recommendations in April.
District spokeswoman Donna Reimer said the notice of registration sign on the school’s fence, which Bonkowski said has been put there every year for almost a decade, was taken down because it was put up without the approval of the school.
She said there are no “preconceived plans” to close any schools in the district before Player’s report is tabled and trustees have had the opportunity to consider its recommendations.
“I don’t think this is rocket science,” said Bonkowski.
“While plans to close specific schools are vague at this time, the school board has already passed the new 10-year strategic plan that calls for the possible closure of schools with enrolment less than 200 students so we want the board to know that we’re still here and just as passionate as we have always been about our school.”
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