Wednesday, December 31, 2008

School District has many options for the future to look over

With the consultants having delivered their report, School District officials, elected school board members and the general public will now have some time to look over the options as to how they wish to see the Education system in Prince Rupert evolve over the next few years.

With a number of choices to be made, the current set up of two high schools and a diminishing number of elementary schools may find some reworking as the next four to five years come to pass.

The Daily News outlined some of the ideas that were put up for consideration earlier in December.

Trustees are on the right track contends Mercer
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, December 29, 2008
Pages one and two

The preliminary report and recommendations for School District 52 schools was thorough and reaffirmed that the board has been proceeding in the right direction, said Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer.

"I think people are still really digesting it, and there was a good turnout there," said Mercer.

"I was impressed to a certain degree that it didn't tell us much different than what we were already planning. It's valuable information that show we were on the right track in identifying what the challenges to our facilities are.

"The analysis looks at the complete community as puts forward at least two which are the most likely to be viewed by the government as real plans.

Now what we have to do is continue to consult with the community.

Matrix Planning Associates hired by the school district to deliver a comprehensive report on the state of the buildings currently housing the students of Prince Rupert, and compile data necessary for the school board to make decisions for the future of education in the community.

William Wood from Matrix presented the company's preliminary report at a special school board meeting held earlier this month that included a list of six scenarios recommended to SD52 to achieve the standard school capacities as set forth by the Ministry of Education.

The six scenarios would each bring the district to an average utilization rate above 85 per cent, and each would reduce the number of Prince Rupert schools by al least one building. Of the six scenarios Matrix recommended two, both of which call for a single secondary school, with maximum utilization and full funds available for educational programs and the upgrading of each elementary schools.

One would see both PRSS and Port Edward closed, while Charles Hays would be expanded, while the other would convert PRSS to a junior middle school, with Port Ed, Westview and Conrad all closed, and the French Immersion program moved to Roosevelt.

The estimated costs associated with the scenarios won't be known until Matrix delivers its final report in early January, possibly in time for the next regular school board meeting on Jan. 13.

However, even after the board has formally met to discuss the report, and members of the public have had opportunity to provide feedback, any major changes to the district won’t happen for at least two to three years.

"We could be as many as five years out still, but having a plan in place is crucial should the opportunity arise, so we are ready for it," said Mercer. "It would be a shame if we missed out on an opportunity to gain capital project funding for the district."

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