The Comox Valley School District is considering relocating École Puntledge Park Elementary to Lake Trail School — but not without first consulting the community.
The proposed move is part of a long-range plan that would offer more space and seats for dual track French immersion, and potentially save SD71 about $720,000 on an ongoing basis.
Another idea is to convert Puntledge, Arden and Courtenay Elementary to kindergarten to Grade 7 schools, and to expand Courtenay Elementary boundaries into Arden and Puntledge.
“No decisions have been made,” SD71 Supt. Sherry Elwood said Tuesday, prior to a school board meeting. The agenda included a list of points of consultation. “It’s a list of thoughts and ideas for the board to consider, after we’ve received feedback.”
The list, she said, is as broad as changing secondary boundaries, and as narrow as engaging the Puntledge community about walking the school across the field to Lake Trail, which is only half full in terms of student enrolment.
“It is easily able to serve the École Puntledge community and the Lake Trail community,” Elwood said. “We are legally obliged to start the conversation with a statement about the consideration of closure.”
Aligning things across the district would yield efficiencies in terms of buildings and funding.
“But more importantly there’s an efficiency in terms of programming,” Elwood said. “This is all about levelling out… We can try to level the district as much as possible so there isn’t inequities between buildings.”
The district would like to level the populations at the three Valley high schools to optimize programming. Vanier has about 1,200 students while Highland has just 625. Isfeld’s enrolment is about 900.
“Just think about what you can offer in an 8-to-12 system when you have 1,200 kids, or what you can offer at 650,” Elwood said. “You can’t offer the same amount of courses.”
A separate consultation process will consider the structure of French immersion programs. As is stands, the district has dual track (English and French) at Puntledge and single track (French only) at École Robb Road in Comox.
A recommendation is to move to dual track programs at Robb Road and at Airport Elementary at the base.
“We’re talking about equity of access,” Elwood said.
A school closure public meeting will be held in February, at which time a report from Elwood will be presented to the school board. In March, the board will render a final decision on closure and French immersion.
In the meantime, the consultation process will garner feedback by way of face-to-face meetings, online comments and, where appropriate, feedback from high school students. The proposed changes could be implemented by the next school year.