The area in question for school officials is the boundary between the Royston and Courtenay Elementary catchment areas. File image, SD71

The area in question for school officials is the boundary between the Royston and Courtenay Elementary catchment areas. File image, SD71

Royston parents bracing for catchment changes

Likely scenario would see some students move to Courtenay Elementary

Royston Elementary School families are bracing for a potential boundary change.

In recent months, School District 71 has been looking at ways to respond to overcapacity issues at the school south of Courtenay.

The most likely scenario has some of the school’s catchment area transferred to Courtenay Elementary, which has space for more students.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley school district considers Royston’s overcapacity issue

Some families have contacted the board of education to raise concerns and questions about the plan. Their letter asks many questions, addressing topics such as the extent of the capacity problem, students attending either school who live out of catchment, the number of incoming kindergarten children, the effects of moving will have on students and different needs of students at the two schools.

The issue affects about 11 per cent of the school population, says Lucia Little, a parent advisory council member.

“While the general parent population is sympathetic to the affected families and would prefer for the school to remain together, I would say the big push is from the specific families and neighbourhood, not the PAC as a whole. The big picture here is that Royston is over-capacity, but no one wants their kids to be impacted by changes,” she said.

During a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 8, district staff and trustees touched on many of the topics raised by parents.

“This is not a decision we take lightly,” board chair Tonia Frawley said. “We are taking all the information into consideration.”

Superintendent Tom Demeo stressed the process is not about finding ways to fill space at Courtenay Elementary but about over-capacity issues in Royston.

Assistant superintendent Geoff Manning explained the school has been built for just over 205 students, but with several modular buildings added to handle the overflow, the enrolment is 315 students.

This poses a few main problems, most notably the septic system, which can handle a maximum of 320.

“Status quo or doing nothing is certainly not an option,” director of operations Ian Heselgrave said.

One suggestion from parents was to use a portable tank.

There is also pressure on space in washrooms, halls and the gymnasium at Royston. The district expects the school to be well above capacity for its infrastructure over the next five years. The demand is not going away soon. Already, with kindergarten registration only having started, the district was projecting 34 new students entering the system through the year but already had 41 registered for kindergarten after only days.

Manning also addressed a question of numbers of out-of-catchment students, saying the district stopped accepting new ones at the school a couple of years ago. This has left only six students from different catchment areas at Royston. Manning said most schools have far more.

“It varies across the district,” he added.

School district staff also brought up other considerations, such as expected growth challenges at other schools in the coming years and the expectation it would be several years before the district could expect capital funding for a new school in a community such as Union Bay to remove some of the enrolment pressure. Another issue the district will be watching is a regional district plan to expand sewer service to southern communities.

While trustees brought up a number of questions, they were not making a decision yet. The board is holding a special meeting on Feb. 15 at which time the trustees will make a decision.

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School District 71

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