Mount Benson Elementary School

PAC PAGES - October 24, 2007 Presentation to Board

Background

In July of 2007, with extra staffing and after months of preparation, senior staff of SD68 released a facility plan. During the presentation parents were advised the data at the back of the report was to be ignored due to the number of errors in it. It contained many major errors regarding Mount Benson school. Since the report did not have supporting data which could be relied upon, meaningful analysis of the proposal was impossible. Parents had to wait until the fall to get an updated version. The updated version contained many of the same errors, but was accepted by the board as a "business plan" and submitted to the Ministry. The acceptance of this plan by trustees without community input meant that Parents needed to review the plan and pro-actively voice concerns.

The plan included a proposal to reallocate funding for Mount Benson School's expansion to another project. To the Wellington Neighbourhood and Mount Benson Parent's this was a very short sighted proposal which ignored virtually every previous study performed by the district or city. Even more disconcerting was that the report backed its recommendations with incorrect and inconsistent information.

To raise awareness with the Trustees that the "plan" to abandon an approved expansion was not good planning or good business, the parents decided to make a presentation to the Full board of Trustees.

Below is a link to the pdf version of the presentation. Time permitting, we will add an html version with links to supporting documentation and information.

Presentation

October 24, 2007 Presentation regarding District's Plan to reallocate Approved Expansion.

Parent Q & A

The plan recommends closure, why didn't the parents present a presentation on closure?

Due to numerous factors such as location, growth, neighbourhood demographics, distance from other schools and ministry requirements, many believe it would be an unfathomable neglect of duty if trustees and senior staff pursued closing Mount Benson School. Mount Benson school is the oldest operating schoolsite in BC for a reason, it is the perfectly located school site. Parents felt that responding to the reference to closures was very premature and Staff and Trustees should be given the opportunity to review and amend their "business plan" before publicly addressing it.

The threat of having the ministry withdraw approval for a Mount Benson Expansion was considered to be a far more real problem if senior staff and trustees waffled in their commitment to our school. A presentation was seen as an appropriate way to bolster their commitment. Due to the same report mentioning closure, the presentation briefly touches on some points which explain why expanding Mount Benson is the only practical solution to future growth in the Wellington Neighbourhood.

Why is Mount Benson Mentioned in the Facilities Plan?

Good question, no legitimate answer has been provided yet so we need to guess.

Below are the primary suspected reasons

  1. Pioneer Park Elementary School: Closing Mount Benson and/or Rutherford will make it so the North end is overcrowded. This will force the construction of a new school at Dickenson road which otherwise wouldn't be needed for 10-15 years. The District's "Business Plan" for both Mount Benson and Rutherford involves pushing students north towards Pioneer Park and Seaview. The district did not include Pioneer Park in their facility renewal plan yet they clearly indicated they wish to proceed with this as they directly requested that they can keep this approved elementary site for education purposes. Closing schools to get new schools built prematurely is not supported by the Ministry, has been confirmed by BCCPAC and is not a legitimate reason to close schools.
  2. Fishing: The district could be fishing for schools which the community is willing to part with. These plans could be a form of "community involvement" where they present something as a plan, and see if anyone objects... no objections and they go ahead with consultation. Fairly stressful way to get community feedback.
  3. Quick Cash: District wants to sell schools to build "Super Woodlands". Replacing Woodlands with a school of 1100 would conservatively cost about $44 Million. The district would need to come up with about $15 Million or more by selling off all the assets it can. Mount Benson cannot be sold as they envision due to historical agreements and contracts. Since they can't get the money they may hope for from selling Mount Benson, they would lose a school in good condition on one of their best sites, and gain nothing. From a taxpayer/business perspective, the idea of demolishing two secondary schools, one of them with lots of life left, constitutes an extreme disregard for taxpayer funds.
  4. They want to make schools Bigger Closing schools during the lowest period of enrolment, then selling off the properties would force the remaining schools to grow. Most North Nanaimo Schools could end up well over 400 students within about 5-15 years. Virtually all recent research has indicated that 250-400 should be the MAXIMIMUM size of an elementary, and 600-800 the upper limit for secondary. In the USA, known for big schools, the average secondary school only has 750 children. Even the National Association of Secondary School Principals has stated that 600 is the largest a secondary school should be. Just this year Sooke quote SD68 reports which state elementary schools should be between 250-400. A staff released report favouring making schools bigger was a summary of "pro-big" webpages, and was not an objective research paper. Even the concept that "bigger" schools save money due to logistics has been questioned and proven to be false. Expenses saved in utilities and administration have been shown to be more than offset by taxpayer expenses associated with the cost of dealing with reduced student engagement, drop-outs and social issues.

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Mount Benson Elementary School
4355 Jingle Pot Road, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 5P4, Canada - (250) 758-1536