School District 71 has a space issue on the south side.
At the latest meeting, the board of education considered how to deal with capacity issues at Royston Elementary as well as Cumberland Community School. The former school, in particular, is well over its recommended enrolment size.
For the Dec. 14 meeting, director of operations Ian Heselgrave presented the board with a briefing note about the challenges.
“This basically focuses on the southern end of the district,” he said. “Royston was well over capacity.”
The district is faced with what to do with the high number of students and has been in the midst of a long-range facilities plan to look at how best to use the space it has in the future in light of where the community is expected to grow.
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The current situation at Royston is there are 310 students, though the operating capacity, including portables, is 305 students. The school’s sewage system capacity is for 320 systems, so another modular building would complicate the capacity challenge and require a sewage upgrade.
As well, adding portables comes with limits and must be paid for from operating budgets as they are not funded as capital projects by the province.
One idea was to move Grade 6 students to Cumberland for the coming year, though Cumberland is at 570 students. The school’s building capacity is 545, and with two modular buildings, the school has room for 595 students.
Most trustees though feel the best move is to move some of the catchment area for Royston into the Courtenay Elementary catchment area. That school is at below capacity. Trustee Janice Caton stressed the strength of the school in Courtenay, calling it the “hidden jewel” in the district.
“Courtenay Elementary is an amazing school,” she said. “The community is fantastic.”
A potential catchment change could see Courtenay Elementary’s boundary shift south to include parts of Fraser Road, Comox Logging Road, South Island Highway and the Ridge development, and it could affect an estimated 37 students. Staff confirmed the students are already being bused to Royston.
Trustee Michelle Waite added that Royston is at the southern edge of the district, meaning students cannot be moved further south.
“They don’t have any other option,” she said.
Trustee Kristi May Sacht suggested the district consider both options, but most board members preferred to limit any potential changes to the boundary shift for now.
At this point, the trustees are only considering options. The district will be looking for input from the school communities in question before a decision is made. This will likely go out for comment in January and come back before the board at the meeting in February.
(The original version has been edited.)