Cowichan School District 79’s decision to send Grade 7 Crofton and Chemainus Elementary School students to Chemainus Secondary for the 2019-20 school year shouldn’t come as a major surprise.
Adding portables to schools was really the only other option and that usually creates more problems than it solves.
Ironically, this situation is totally contrary to what was foreseen for the North Zone region just a few short years ago. There was more concern about empty space in elementary schools rather than the overpopulation that’s occurring now.
With some major housing developments now in the works within Chemainus and Crofton that will not just attract retirees to the region, but also young families, it seems the school population in the North Zone will be continuing an upward trend for some time to come.
That presents a whole other difficulty that has yet to be addressed and will need a serious assessment shortly. What happens when the excess space at Chemainus Secondary is taken up by the swelling numbers moving over from the elementary schools in the next few years?
Then we could be right back to Square One. Chemainus Secondary will become filled as well as the feeder elementaries. At that point, portables could be back on the table to handle the overflow anyway, but no one wants to go in that direction unless absolutely necessary.
Apparently, consideration was given to a larger Crofton Elementary when it was first built but because population projections at the time didn’t foresee an increase down the road, the school was kept to a prescribed size.
These decisions always come down to dollars and cents, of course, and at the time it didn’t make sense for Crofton Elementary to be any roomier.
So here we are. The logistics of accommodating Grade 7s in the same building as students up to Grade 12 will be tricky, but it can be done with tremendous care and planning. Lake Cowichan Secondary made a huge transition a few years ago to having Grades 4-12 in the same school, but with elementary and secondary programs on separate floors.
Chemainus Secondary will need to make concessions for the Grade 7s to bridge the big gap in ages so they’re as comfortable as possible.