Catchment changes for the coming school year will include Grade 9 students staying at Cumberland Community School for now, and closing cross-border transfers at Huband Park.
These were the two most contentious issues during a vote at the latest board of education meeting to decide on staff recommendations concerning a number of catchment issues at schools in the Comox Valley.
“This was an extremely difficult and long process,” trustee Janice Caton said. “Nothing we’ll decide tonight is going to be easy.”
The recommendations were the subject of a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 18 and the items came forward for approval at the board meeting on Feb. 25. These were put together following public forums at the main schools in question as well as through online surveys. They revolve around capacity issues primarily at four schools in the Comox Valley. Suggested measures include adding modular, or portable, buildings, applying for capital funding for permanent additions and closing cross-boundary transfers to reduce pressure at the sites.
There was also a recommendation to close cross-boundary transfers for the coming years at Vanier and Isfeld secondary schools that passed unanimously.
The proposed changes for Royston Elementary and Miracle Beach were approved with little disagreement.
For Cumberland, the debate was around moving the Grade 9 students to Vanier next year. Caton made a motion to amend the recommendations by removing the reference to Grade 9 students. She and others spoke out of concern for the effect of moving students to a new school next year with so little time left in this year.
“Right now, there’s room in the school for those Grade 9 students,” Caton added.
However, chair Ian Hargreaves questioned whether the other recommendations would still be valid if the one clause was removed. A main concern he cited was space and a possible need to use the annex building, which according to the recommendations should be kept for community use. By not moving the Grade 9s, they would have to deal with a more serious space issue.
“I’m not sure … this community can take that kind of ongoing stress and uncertainty for a long period of time,” he said.
He agreed with others that the district can apply for capital project funding, but this comes with no guarantees, and there might not be a modular building available in the mean time.
“We’re working with what we’ve got now, we’re planning with what we’ve got now,” he said.
Caton’s motion to amend the recommendations passed, with only Hargreaves, Tonia Frawley and Kay Hawksby opposing.
For Huband Park, the sticking point surrounded closures for cross-boundary transfers, even within families for the school. Some members of the board felt the move would negatively affect young students being sent back to schools they had left prior to their transfers.
“For me, I look at families,” Caton said. “Not all children are resilient.”
Hargreaves, however, said they were dealing with a facility issue, and the school district has long heard complaints from parents about the condition of the toilets, halls, gym and library at the school, and that rejecting the recommendation for Huband Park would not change anything.
He also said there is no room for a modular building.
“This, to me, disrupts the least amount of students,” he said.
In the case of Huband Park, the recommendations as presented by staff passed, with Caton, Michelle Waite and Sarah Jane Howe voting in opposition.