Planning a new elementary school wish list in Lake Cowichan

Clearing up misconceptions fielded thus far, and seeking further public input, the first of two public meetings for a new elementary school was held Monday, February 28, at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena. A second meeting has been scheduled for Monday, March 7.

  • Mar. 3, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Clearing up misconceptions fielded thus far, and seeking further public input, the first of two public meetings for a new elementary school was held Monday, February 28, at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.

Headed by consultant Sue Plester, the meeting outlined the Neighbourhood of Learning concept, and included which ideas are still on the table, and which are not.

The Neighbourhood of Learning model serves to centralizes community services, with various organizations and facilities attached to the upcoming elementary school, which earlier consultation determined should be erected at the AB Greenwell Elementary School site, which was shut down in 2008 due to mould.

“It’s more square footage, in addition to the school, for these things,” Plester said. “Neighbourhood of Learning dollars are additional dollars… it’s for an additional space.”

The additional facilities would be integrated into the new elementary school in a way that makes sense to all parties involved, Plester said. The school’s entrance would be different from the entrance to an attached public facility, she said, as an example.

Current items on the table for the public’s consideration area include; An early learning centre / hub; Adult education; Sports and recreation; Municipal facilities; First Nations, Metis, and Inuit programs / services / space; Multi-purpose / meeting space with storage, working kitchen; Senior’s programs / services; Community and / or allotment garden; Youth centre; Public health services / Kaatza Health Centre; Private health service providers; Performing arts centre; Visual arts centre; Community radio station.

There seems to be particular interest in an adult education centre, Plester said, adding that the feeling she’s received is that the community has missed having such a centre in town.

“I think there’s an interest in bringing something back and building from there,” she said.

The Cowichan Lake area’s community radio station, CICV 98.7-FM, has also expressed interest in an on-site facility to help get the community more involved in the station.

Items no longer on the table include a public library, RCMP detachment, playschool / preschool, community services society, community policing office, and post office. Reasons given for these items’ dismissal from the Neighbourhood of Learning project are that current facilities are sufficient, and that the AB Greenwell location isn’t central enough.

Plester has been working on Lake Cowichan’s Neighbourhood of Learning project since November, when the Town of Lake cowichan and Cowichan Valley School District 79 hired her, courtesy of a grant from the government, to investigate what the public would like involved in a new elementary school, which is at the top of the school district’s list of priority capital projects.

“For some people, the idea of a co-locating model is way off the wall,” she said, during the February 28 meeting.

Backing of the model, Plester cited several facilities in the province that adhere to the Neighbourhood of Learning model. The Britannia Centre in Vancouver, as an example, integrates a seniors’ centre, child care centres, an art gallery, racquet ball court and mat room, teen centre, a swimming pool, a secondary school, and various other community facilities.

The first of two public meetings for feedback on what the community would like involved in a new elementary school had a disappointing turnout, with the majority of those turning out being elected officials, school district representatives, and local teachers.

After an attempt to hold a meeting the previous week was cancelled, due to poor weather, the subsequent Monday, February 28, meeting was held, despite equally poor weather conditions.

A makeup meeting has been scheduled for Monday, March 7, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Cowichan Lake Sport Arena’s new upstairs multi-purpose room.

For those unable to turn out, an online questionnaire can be filled out, which is available at the school district website, at www.sd79.bc.ca.

“Without your input on this questionnaire, we’re flying blind,” Plester said.

The results of this consultation will serve as another tool for both the school district and the Town of Lake Cowichan in helping decide upon, and apply for funds, in relation to a new elementary school.