Trustees approved a boundary change for the Royston and Courtenay Elementary catchment areas at a special meeting on Feb. 15. Image, SD71

Trustees approved a boundary change for the Royston and Courtenay Elementary catchment areas at a special meeting on Feb. 15. Image, SD71

Comox Valley board makes Royston-Courtenay school boundary change

Trustees ask staff for transition plan, including ‘grandfathering’ current Grade 5s

Some students currently at Royston Elementary will be moving to Courtenay Elementary for the coming school year.

This is the result of the School District 71 board of education’s decision at a Feb. 15 special meeting to shift the catchment boundary between the two schools.

The boundary adjustment moves the Courtenay Elementary catchment boundary further south. The area in question includes parts of Fraser Road, Comox Logging Road, South Island Highway and Ridge development.

Royston has been at capacity in recent years and can handle no more students for various reasons to do with infrastructure, most notably the school’s septic system, which has a capacity for 320 students. At a committee meeting earlier in February, staff reported enrolment already at 315, though the school was originally built for 205 students.

Board chair Tonia Frawley noted at the start of the special meeting that this was a difficult decision for the trustees.

“Tonight is a tough meeting for all of us,” she said. “I’m sure we have all had sleepless nights.”

A school district news release noted the board and staff had spent hundreds of hours analyzing enrolment and other information, taking input from the public and responding to questions.

“We have had lots of feedback from the public and the Royston community,” Frawley added.

Board veteran Sheila McDonnell made the motion to accept the staff recommendation to move catchment boundaries over another option to move Grade 6 students to Cumberland Community School. Senior staff had already said an option to maintain the status quo was not a realistic option.

Beyond the septic capacity issues, McDonnell also said adding another modular building was not an option, as it would have to be paid from the district’s operating budget, meaning it would take resources out of the classroom.

“I have to bear in mind our resources and how we allocate them,” she said.

All members of the board spoke about the difficulty of this choice but all felt the catchment change was the only option. The trustees voted unanimously to support the motion.

RELATED STORY: Royston parents bracing for catchment changes

Janice Caton, another board veteran, talked about the experience of having her children move to different schools in the past and how difficult it was as a parent.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we have to make this decision,” she said.

She suggested the school district consider an idea to grandfather current Grade 5 students at Royston and allow the ones that would be moved to Courtenay Elementary to finish their elementary schooling where they are. The board again voted unanimously in favour of the transition plan.

Superintendent Tom Demeo told the board they could look at coming back with a transition plan for both schools affected, which would include not only the grandfathering plan but examine all of the issues. He said staff should be able to provide the plan by spring break.

“We realize this shift is impacting some families, and we are working to support students who are changing schools,“ Demeo said in a news release. “There are also other growth pressures in SD 71 that we are actively working on finding solutions for, to ensure we have adequate space for our programming and students.”

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