School board executives were met with protesters outside the offices Tuesday

Power to the pupils

Comox Valley school trustees defeated a recommendation to close and relocate Puntledge Elementary to Lake Trail Middle School.

École Puntledge Park Elementary is staying open.

In a 6-1 vote Tuesday, Comox Valley school trustees defeated a recommendation to close and relocate the elementary school to Lake Trail Middle School.

Trustee Peter Coleman, the lone no vote, felt the school board faced two choices: either close Puntledge or lose another eight or 10 teaching positions.

“I see no alternative,” he said. “I’m not willing to vote for more teacher cuts.”

Trustee Sheila McDonnell — who recognizes the assets of both schools —  feels there is a choice.

“We have a magic thing. It (Puntledge) really is priceless,” McDonnell said to a round of applause from the standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the hallway at the SD71 office.

The proposed closure was one of several cost-saving ideas to deal with an estimated $2.4 million shortfall heading into the 2016/17 school year. The main problem is an estimated enrolment decline of 143 students.

A groundswell of opposition developed since the district first proposed the closure last year. Safety is a major concern. A government review of seismic risk in the event of an earthquake has Lake Trail at high while Puntledge was not found to be at risk. A study by the Keep Puntledge at Puntledge group counted 621 non-school related cars passing at the Lake Trail/Willemar intersection, while 27 non-related vehicles passed near Puntledge.

McDonnell said the traffic numbers are “compelling.” She has heard “overwhelmingly” from the public about the importance of École Puntledge — its quiet access and play space — which can’t be replicated at Lake Trail.

“Will we end up with a jerry-rigged school instead of this priceless gem?” she said. “The two schools are designed to meet certain needs.”

Trustee Ian Hargreaves, who taught at Puntledge for 10 years, does not feel the school is a gem, though he agrees the location might be.

“I wish we had the money to redo the inside of it and make it into what it should be,” he said, noting a 2008 deferral to close Puntledge. “But at this point it has classrooms that are used as hallways. That is not a good learning environment for anyone’s children.”

If Puntledge were to close, board chair Tom Weber’s concern would be the likelihood of a third party using the site for independent education purposes — which would draw from SD71’s student population.

“Should Puntledge close, what would be its future use?” said Weber, who feels relocating the board office is “highly unlikely.”

Before the vote, trustee Janice Caton had been “on the fence.”

“This is a terribly difficult situation,” trustee Vickey Brown said, noting Puntledge needs $500,000 worth of deferred maintenance.

“We need to look at the long-term health of SD71. I believe Lake Trail is the better school.”

Considering efforts to revitalize West Courtenay, trustee Cliff Boldt feels that closing Puntledge and Lake Trail as a middle school (proposed transfer of Grade 8s and 9s to Vanier Secondary) would decrease the district’s options.

Boldt noted that Courtenay council approved a motion from Coun. Erik Eriksson to write a letter of concern, highlighting the importance of Puntledge Elementary for the livability of the community.

Just Posted

Sarah Rebitt named the Vanier recipient of the Governor General’s Award

Sarah Rebitt was named the recipient of the 2018 Governor General’s Award… Continue reading

Stolen kayak tops Comox Valley RCMP report

Comox Valley RCMP report week of Sept. 18-2

Dead motorcyclist was member of Facebook group that raced on Mount Washington road

Some group members record their rides and post times to page

UPDATE: Motorcyclist dead following crash on Strathcona Parkway

A 29 year old man has died following a motorcycle crash on… Continue reading

Vancouver Island pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

VIDEO: Tour de Rock rider says event provides badly needed support

Cancer survivor and volunteer firefighter Nicole Emery speaks about importance of fundraising tour

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Sept. 25, 2018

Bob Castle’s Under The Glacier cartoon for Sept. 25, 2018… Continue reading

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

Island man calls 911 after being robbed of his drugs

Nineteen-year-old and 15-year-old suspects face multiple charges following robbery Monday in Nanaimo

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

Most Read