Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools long-range facilities plan (LRFP) has been approved by the board of trustees and will guide growth in the district for the next 10 years.
The LRFP’s 34 recommendations cover capacity and growth, seismic safety and maintenance, environmental sustainability, partnerships, land acquisition and disposition, accessibility and equity and governance and policy. A committee will be struck to guide the plan’s objectives.
“I’m pleased in the way we were able to draw in data on development potential and use that to inform some of the actions that we’ll need to address through the advisory committee,” Trustee Greg Keller said at the May 26 board meeting.
During the consultation process for the plan, top comments from parents and caregivers included having well maintained and accessible services such as gyms, libraries, theatres, arts and media rooms and sports facilities as well as having adequate staff to support students. Staff and teachers commonly expressed cleanliness, learning areas with natural light and break-out space and safe drinking water, the latter of which was also echoed by students. Students also mentioned a desire for outdoor learning spaces.
Following the consultation period, staff made minor adjustments to some of the recommendations, including adding school gardens to the recommendation related to incorporating outdoor learning spaces to the annual facilities grant and local capital planning. Also added in, that NLPS will commit to facility upgrades “that align with modern ways of teaching and learning, including considering flexible spaces and a cross-curricular focus.”
The school district used short-term enrolment projections and also hired Licker Geospatial Consulting to forecast long-term growth in the region over the next 10 years. The firm used housing forecasts to determine their projections, looking at trends over the last five years including where students live and BC Assessment data as well as regional and municipal growth forecasts. If projected population growth in the district occurs, NLPS schools, excluding portables, will be 25 per cent over capacity by 2030, the LRFP states.
Rather than open new schools, the LRFP committee will identify schools that can be expanded. The plan does not contemplate school closures.
The final LRFP includes adjusted population projections for secondary school students.
“We decided to be a little bit more conservative on the number of students per dwelling,” Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said. The expected pressure on south end high school schools has been lessened as a result.
Gabriola Elementary School (GES) is projected to have 170 students by 2030-31, minus 37 per cent under capacity. Nanaimo District Secondary School is expected to be 11 per cent over capacity. Both are numbered in the 84 per cent of schools in the district in need of seismic upgrades, according to the LRFP.
NDSS is considered at high risk to seismic events, according to seismic risk assessments completed in 2018. It tops the list of schools with the most square footage at highest seismic risk (H1).
For GES, both the gymnasium, built in 1976, and the east classrooms, built between 1976 and 1987, have a seismic risk assessment of H1, the highest rating given to facilities as per Engineers and Geoscientists BC’s seismic retrofit guidelines, which the Ministry of Education follows for its school seismic mitigation program. An H1 rating means a structure is at the highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure during an earthquake.
The construction-only cost estimate for GES’s upgrades is nearly $2.5 million, according to the 2018 assessments, the school district says.
The Ministry of Education’s seismic mitigation program progress report from May lists NDSS, GES and 247 other schools across the province as “future priorities.” So far 186 schools have been completed, including Wellington Secondary, and 30 are under construction; 13 are proceeding to construction and include Cilaire Elementary and Pleasant Valley Elementary.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder