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Cumberland schools will merge into 'learning campus'

School District 71 plans to merge Cumberland's two schools into one kindergarten-to-Grade 9 "learning campus" by September.

"What we're looking at is having one site, one school and one staff operating kindergarten-to-Grade 9 programming on an integrated piece of land," district secretary treasurer Russell Horswill told Cumberland's committee of the whole during a meeting about the Village's official community plan.

The school district has asked Cumberland council to consider closing the section of Ulverston Avenue running between the elementary and junior schools. The district plans to keep both schools in operation but treat them as one school.

"We don't have enough room in either of the schools to house all of the kids. So, we still need the space that both schools are providing," Horswill later explained in an interview. "But, the idea being that if you operated as one school and if you don't have a road running between the two of them, then students can move back and forth between the two buildings and access their programming.

"A good example might be the shop class is in the junior high so we might have younger kids going over for some of that aspect. The junior high has a music room that the younger kids could access as well."

School parking on Ulverston would be lost with the road closure, so Horswill says the district acquired the old medical clinic property adjacent to the elementary school with the intention of demolishing the boarded-up building and installing a parking area.

He notes the property is already zoned Public Assembly 1, so it does not need to go through rezoning. But the road closure must be approved by Cumberland council, and a public hearing will be part of that process.

"We're hoping that the road closure and the parking development is done in time for September  2014," says Horswill. "We're also looking at developing the area between the two schools so we would remove the road, and so there's work that's being undertaken to look at how we would develop the site so that it was secure for students, welcoming, green…"

Meanwhile, the school district will conduct a visioning process in January and February — with parents, staff and the community — to explore what the community wants to see in terms of educational programming at the new learning campus.

Horswill says Cumberland's expected population growth in future years was a driving force behind the idea for the campus-style approach.

"We certainly need to position the school district so it can handle that growth," continues Horswill. "And one of the thoughts being that if we were able to create this learning campus then we would have more flexibility to deal with student growth, so then we know that the students are able to be accommodated in their own community."

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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