Nanaimo Ladysmith School Board SD68 meets today, January 8, 2013 at 6pm in their offices to decide if they’re going to force Cedar residents to send their children to John Barsby Secondary School, or listen and provide busing to Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) from Cedar, where the majority of parents want to send their children. This all began when plans were made to close Cedar Secondary School; just built ten years ago.
The following is a press release from Save Cedar Schools Coalition:
Is this getting old yet folks? Save Cedar Schools is once again outraged by the latest district report outlining the cost to bus Cedar high school students out of their own community. “This report is another in a long line of examples of how our district staff will manipulate numbers in order to try to force this plan to work,” said Steve Rae of the Save Cedar Schools Coalition. The district staff report is troubling for many reasons, but three stand out as the most important to highlight.
1. The current busing costs outlined in the “Report on Busing to John Barsby and Ladysmith Secondary” are highly misleading. The report states that to bus students to Barsby only, will cost $455,878 (purchase of 2 buses plus an annual cost of $175,878) but to bus students to LSS and Barsby will cost $868,680 (purchase cost of 4 buses plus an annual cost of $308,680). What is missing in these calculations is that the cost of $455,878 is only for the Cedar students who chose John Barsby Secondary School as their school of “choice.”
“When the trustees voted to close Cedar Community Secondary School they ensured that every single high school aged child in Cedar is no longer within walking distance of a high school and therefore must now be bused to school no matter what”.
The bottom line is that if every student chose Barsby, as the district wanted, it would cost $728,680 (purchase of 3 buses plus an annual operating cost of $308,680) to bus students to John Barsby. Steve Rae stated, “The district report stating a difference of $412,802 to run buses to both LSS and Barsby is highly misleading and does not account for the actual number of students that now MUST ALL be bused out of their own community to attend high school. We expect that the Trustees, our elected representatives can see through this intentional manipulation of the numbers and do the right thing when reviewing this report”.
2. Families in Cedar came out loud and clear during the consultation process and said we want our own community school to stay open but if you must close it, we want LSS to be our catchment school. Rae states, “Despite every effort by the district to coerce Cedar families to Barsby, over half chose LSS. The trustees have a tough decision to make here, do they recognize the will of their constituents and make LSS the catchment school for Cedar families or do they opt for the more expensive option of having two bus routes in order to fill Barsby? The right educational and economic choice is obvious.”
3. In the plan that was tabled to the public and approved by trustees in June, the cost of busing ALL cedar students to Barsby was listed at $281,200. The district also hoped that the ministry of education would reward their school closures by buying the new buses necessary to move all these displaced Cedar Students. However, that is not ministry policy. Ministry policy states they will replace aging buses but not buy new ones that are needed as a result of school closures.
“So now we find out that the actual number is closer to $500k for less than half the students and closer to $750k for all the students, what happened to $281,200? Did they make that up? And if they made that up, what else did they make up?” Rae asked.
This means that the hoped for operational savings listed by closing Cedar Secondary School no longer exist. It only costs $658,363 to run Cedar Secondary School each year. Rae goes on to say, “All along the Save Cedar Schools Coalition has asserted that the costs and savings stated by the district were incorrect.
months later, AFTER the vote we find out that it is going to cost between $500,000-$750,000 to bus students out of the community, this whole plan is just plain wrong and everything about it stinks
So let’s review the success of the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan so far; we have soaring transportation costs associated with a plan that was supposed to save money. Through volunteers on the school construction committee, we know that the costs of renovating Cedar Secondary into an elementary school are mounting beyond the approved budget of $1.5 million and trustees on this committee have stated that this original number was “made up.”
We learned through our FOI’s that the district and trustees have known since July 11 that there is no money coming from the ministry for the many new build schools they have planned in Ladysmith and Nanaimo, including the new NDSS. And finally, the district is fighting a lawsuit from the Snuneymuxw First Nation over a lack of consultation regarding this plan when all they needed to do was just sit down at the table with them.
The proverbial wheels are coming off the bus here folks, the right thing to do is to stop, take a breath and do a thorough and proper analysis of what are the best economical and educational choices to make for the district as a whole in time when our district is facing a $6 million operational shortfall.
The Save Cedar Schools coalition has numerous costed options that would result in a newly built high school in the city proper that doesn’t rely on ministry funding and would still allow John Barsby to remain open and Cedar to keep the newest and fullest high school in the district open. Once again, we look forward to meeting with the trustees to discuss these options when they finally realize that this plan is a complete and utter failure for the ENTIRE school district.