Outrage over unsafe, unusable, empty schools in SD68

When SD68 trustees voted to create Cedar Elementary on June 26, 2013, it was proposed to be a 475 student mega elementary with an arts focused, small learning communities model. In review: 

  • “The new school will be the envy of the District and the entire Island and peoples in Cedar will be excited for their children’s Educations [sic].”  Trustee Bill Bard in an email to a community member in Cedar on September 21, 2013
  • “Cedar Elementary… offers exciting opportunities for elementary education in the Cedar community. Consultation with parents during the planning process will result in a facility and school educational philosophy that is supported by the majority of Cedar parents.” Superintendent Dave Hutchinson in a report to the Board of Education on October 23, 2012.
  • “Cedar Elementary will result in the implementation of an arts-focused elementary school model in Cedar.” Dr. Player Report to the district, April 11, 2013
  • “Cedar Elementary should include a ‘Da Vinci studio’ for inventive play by all age groups” Report from Cedar Elementary Visioning Workshop, September 13, 2013
  • “Cedar Elementary will blur indoor-outdoor space because views and access to the outdoors is important.”  Report from Cedar Elementary Visioning Workshop, September 13, 2013

On March 13, district staff released the latest plans for the school they have described as the “crown jewel elementary school” of the district. The school is now projected to have only 277 students and will still cost over $2 million to renovate. The latest architectural plans show:

  • that there will be no arts focus at the school,
  • the outdoor playfields, which are unusable for 8 of the 10 months of the school year, will not be upgraded
  • the woodshop and tech wings will remain in the school and boarded up
  • washroom vanities and fixtures will not be lowered
  • lockers will remain in the hallways
  • water fountains will not be lowered and traffic safety measures will not be considered.

So the crown jewel school that was to house 475 students and be the envy of the District and entire island will now be a half-empty, half-renovated repurposed high school with unsafe and unusable outdoor playfields located next to a commercial marijuana grow op.”

CEDARSS Outrage over unsafe, unusable, empty schools in SD68
Cedar Community Secondary School to be converted into a ‘mega elementary’ – leaves Cedar with no high school and causes $2 million renovation which SD68 cannot afford.

Save Cedar Schools Coalition has argued that the enrollment projections of 475 for Cedar Elementary were overly optimistic. For months the district has ignored pleas to rethink the use of Cedar Secondary for elementary use.

Of particular concern for Save Cedar Schools is the use of the district’s “Annual Facilities Grant” for the renovation of Cedar Secondary into a half-empty elementary school. According to the Ministry of Education, the AFG is “intended for annual facility projects required to maintain facility assets through their anticipated economic life and to prevent premature deterioration of these assets.”

So SD68 is choosing to “reallocate high priority District-wide annual programs including roof replacement, flooring, and painting” (SD68 Actions Sheet, March 13, 2014) to pay for the renovation of Cedar Elementary. This means that if you have a school that needs a new roof or gym floor and paint job, SD68 staff has chosen to put aside that maintenance in order to funnel the money and resources into renovating the NEWEST and FULLEST high school in the district into a half empty elementary school.

Closing more schools to fill ‘mega’ elementary
Even more distressing is that under this plan we will end up with MORE empty operating seats than we currently have in the area. Not only is this latest version of the plan bad for Cedar students, it is bad for the entire district.

SD68 keeps telling the community that Cedar Elementary has the potential to be a really great school in 10 years. Well, 10 years isn’t good enough for the students that will be stuck in an unsafe, half-empty high school with no play fields in September, 2015. Especially since it will cost $2 million to put them there. Furthermore, in order to make that school “really great” they will have to close another school to fill Cedar Elementary.

Which will that be, Chase River, North Oyster or Cinnabar Valley? At this point you might as well just throw a dart at the map, it would make more sense than any of the planning mechanisms our district seems to be using. They keep saying that these decisions are good for the entire district, but they seem to be forgetting that Cedar is part of the district too and if this plan is bad for the students of Cedar, it is also bad for the district.

Save Woodbank Primary
Save Cedar Schools has suggested repeatedly over the months that the district rethink the proposal for Cedar Elementary and consider renovating Woodbank Primary School for use as a k-7 school for the Cedar Area. The school can hold 229 students and has usable and safe outdoor playfields and equipment. It also has one of the best facilities ratings in the district and will be sitting empty 3 km away from the propose Cedar Elementary.

WOODBANK Outrage over unsafe, unusable, empty schools in SD68
Woodbank Primary School at 1984 Woobank Road in Cedar scheduled to close in 2015

Save Cedar Schools has asked their zone trustee to consider making a recommendation at the board table to reopen the Cedar Elementary decision in light of the rising costs and dropping enrolment. Cedar Zone Trustee Nancy Curley responded that, “The decision has already been made…and the board is moving forward with the reconfiguration of the school.” During this time, where we are facing a $5.4 million operating shortfall, to spend this kind of money to end up with more empty seats in the district is financially irresponsible.

The renovation of Woodbank Primary into a k-7 school would be more economically and educationally sound.