Press release from Save Our Cedar Schools Coalition dated July 16, 2013:
A coalition of parents, students, graduates, community members, locally elected officials and local business leaders has been formed to challenge plans by School District 68 to close schools in the Cedar area of Nanaimo. Save Cedar Schools will be working in collaboration with the Snuneymuxw First Nation.
Save Cedar Schools strongly objects to the closing of Cedar Secondary School and the relocation of its students just to fill an under-populated secondary school in town which could be filled with many other viable options.
Save Cedar Schools also strongly objects to the consolidation of all the area elementary schools into the largest elementary school in the district to be housed in the former Cedar Secondary School. On June 26, 2013, the board of trustees for School District 68 voted to close Cedar SecondarySchool and bus all the students to a high school in Nanaimo.
“The entire process, from start to finish that SD68 has followed, has been flawed,” said Steve Rae of Save Cedar Schools Coalition. “The communities voices have not been heard or respected. It is a disservice to the students, parents, and taxpayers in our community. Their rush to judgement hurts children throughout all of SD68. Save Cedar Schools is not only fighting to keep our own schools open, we also want to make sure the board is making decisions that make educational and economic sense for all of SD68 because this decision isn’t just bad for Cedar, it is bad for the all the students in SD68,” he added. “Not only are students hurt but this will be utterly devastating to the social and economic fabric of our community [Cedar] and its future.”
Some details of the process the School District followed include the following:
- During the 60 day consultation period the school district trustees did not return emails or phone calls from any members of the general Cedar community.
- The trustees attended one meeting in the community in which they refused to answer questions from the hundreds of community members in attendance. The trustees divided into small groups during this meeting and very few trustees remained present to hear the 200 plus Cedar families air their concerns and alternative plans.
- At the meeting on June 12, 2013 at Cedar Secondary School, two trustees told Save Cedar Schools Coalition member Stephanie Higginson that they had not seen any financial numbers from the district staff on the cost of renovating Cedar Secondary School into an elementary school and furthermore, they would not be looking at these numbers before the vote because they weren’t even sure the district staff had done a financial analysis.
- On the night of the vote, the board of trustees did not address the crowd, did not explain the reasons for their decisions and did not discuss any of the economically viable alternative plans that community members had submitted at the board’s request.
- To this date, SD68 has not released any information regarding the estimated costs of closing Cedar Secondary School, busing its 600 students into Nanaimo and renovating the newest secondary school in the district to become an elementary school.
- The community engaged in the consultation process responsibly and proactively and in a respectful and transparent manner. Community members participated in the “Thought Stream” program offered by the board, sent in their own ideas, plans and suggestions and attended the single community meeting held on the closure of the schools in the Cedar area. The Cedar community attempted to participate in the consultation process as dictated by the board but they refused to engage in consultation with the community.
The decisions by the SD68 to adopt these plans have been despite the fact that Cedar Secondary School is an exemplary institution. Some key facts about Cedar Secondary include the following:
- Cedar Secondary School was built in 2000 as a secondary school and is the newest high school in the school district. It is operating at 100% capacity.
- Cedar Secondary has a graduation rate of 97.1%. This is 5% higher than the SD68 average.
Cedar Secondary has a post-secondary attendance rate of 20-30%. The SD 68 post-secondary attendance rate is 7-12%.
- In 2013 Cedar Secondary School was ranked 6th in significant increase in academic improvement by the Fraser Institute over the past five years for all British Columbia secondary schools. Only one other secondary school in Nanaimo made the top 25 in the province.
Members of the Save Our Cedar Schools Coalition will be in the BC Legislature on Thursday July 18, 2013 to watch MLA Doug Routley present their petition and question the Minister of Education about appointing a special advisor to the board to review the consultation process.
“The trustees need to understand the political consequences for ignoring voters. We want to remind the trustees that they do not work for CEO and senior administrators of SD68. They work for the people who voted for them, the parents and students of SD68,” said Steve Rae.