Royston and Courtenay Elementary Boundaries Review FAQ

Questions are ordered under the following six categories:

Rationale & Timing

Question The moving of the boundary appears to be an effort by the parties involved to delay the challenges that will inevitably be realized related to population growth in the Comox Valley. As per the school population growth forecast found in the extensive report, every single school will be over capacity by 2021.

All schools except for Cumberland were reported as over capacity in 2020. Based on the report, this problem will only get worse across the entire school district and it appears it is believed that by moving 40 students into another catchment is going to alleviate the issues and challenges related to population growth in the area, please explain?

Response: Re-establishing the boundaries deals with the leveling of the population between families of schools. In this case, Royston, Cumberland and Courtenay elementary are part of the “same family.”

We are trying to get capital expansions from the Ministry and in order to do so we must demonstrate that we have done everything that is possible locally, up to and including shifting boundaries, to level out school populations.

We are also looking at solutions to capacity challenges in the rest of the District. We must adjust boundaries to ensure there is adequate space in each school to provide the most optimal learning environments for all our students.

Question Weren’t changes made to Royston 2 years ago after the board meetings about this same issue? Portables were added. Has this helped at all?
Response: Yes, changes occurred and modular classrooms were placed at the school. We knew that it was a temporary solution (as mentioned in the consultations meetings).  Initially, we felt that with a few modifications, and modular classrooms that we would be able to transition into a capital project expansion.

However, the growth that occurred outpaced our predictions. In addition, the Ministry has not yet supported our capital plan expansion requests and will not approve any expansions when there is space at nearby schools.

Question Why was there no consideration and planning for this when The Ridge development broke ground?
Response: When The Ridge development broke ground, there was room at Royston.  However, overall growth throughout the Royston Catchment has caused increased enrollment.

We do take municipal planning and census data into consideration while planning our capital projects and determining the distribution of students in our schools.

Question Many families choose to stay in this neighborhood. I don’t think it is a solution to move the students to different areas/ schools.

Why can’t the students go to the school in Royston? This is the neighborhood they live in!

Response: The school is at capacity and cannot accommodate the anticipated growth we are experiencing in this catchment area. Therefore, we need to adjust the catchment area to fit school capacity at Royston.

We have applied for an expansion at Royston but won’t be eligible for Ministry funding until we balance the distribution of students in our schools.

Question Why not move older students from both Cumberland and Royston into Courtenay schools if that is where surplus capacity is?
Response: Courtenay Elementary is a K-5 school. We have space for the current student enrollments in Cumberland, so moving them does not help the overall district picture.
Question Why would you put stress on kids at this time? The last two years have been hard enough. Now you want them to go and integrate when everyone is masked and expect them to transition easily. Rethink this!
Response: The biggest reason for moving ahead now is that we do not have space at Royston and are concerned we won’t be able to accommodate new students entering the school.

Applications have been submitted for capital expansions at Royston and Cumberland schools. Since that time, enrolments have grown significantly and are projected to continue increasing.

More rational is here.

Question When will this decision be formalized?
Response: It is our hope that a final decision will be made by the end of February.
Question Are you sure this is a good idea right now?
Response: The biggest reason for moving ahead now is that we do not have space at Royston. And we need to plan ahead, so that we position ourselves for a capital expansion from the Ministry of Education.

Applications have been submitted for capital expansions at Royston and Cumberland schools. Since that time, enrolments have grown significantly and are projected to continue increasing.

We are already over capacity at Royston Elementary and a shift in the boundary could assist in alleviating these pressures. We can’t defer decisions further into the future; a longer-term solution must be implemented.

Question Can’t we wait on this until we are finished with the pandemic?
Response: See above
Question Why do you think removing children who have been going to Royston most of their elementary years is your best option?
Response: See above
Question I have read both of your reports that are linked onto your webpage for the boundary change. Interestingly, in light of your recent proposal for Royston boundary change, the statement below is a direct quote from your first report from 2019-2020:

“The clarity that this process provided is that under no circumstances will the District be able to handle the population growth at Royston and Cumberland with boundary changes.”

Please explain the dramatic change in your decision.

Response: Boundary changes alone do not solve the problem of population growth. Both Royston and Cumberland have had portables added since the consultation.

This is why the District is strongly advocating for expansion capital projects at Royston and Cumberland. Moving students is only part of the solution.

The biggest change since the 2019-2020 report is the unexpectedly high rate of growth that we are experiencing. The boundary changes are now more urgent.

The current enrollment at Royston is 315 students. Neither the existing classrooms, nor the school’s infrastructure, can accommodate any further growth.

Question Were the modulars used from Hornby?
Response: Yes, the modulars were moved to Brooklyn, Cumberland and Puntledge Elementary Schools.
Question Were the boundaries closed for cross boundary transfers?
Response: Yes
Question Why are you requesting more money when you have quite a few surplus properties that could be sold for further investment into the current schools?
Response: We do not have many surplus properties; in some cases those properties may be needed to accommodate a future educational site. If properties are sold now and we need them in the future, the District will be responsible for purchasing land with no assistance from the government.

As well, if we sell surplus properties, the vast majority of the funds will be transferred back to the Ministry of Education as per provincial policy.

Question How will this proposed boundary change benefit our children?
Response: By addressing capacity issues, we prevent premature deterioration of school facilities. The infrastructure of the schools are designed to operate at a certain capacity (i.e., library size, office space, hallways, etc). We try to keep our schools from going too far above capacity to the reduce the problems that arise from overuse and overcrowding.

By looking at the big picture of how we use our limited resources, we can provide the biggest benefit for the students of our school district.

Question Would grade 7-9 students who live in The Ridge and attend Cumberland be moved to Lake Trail?
Response: No, that would be a decision families could make. We would offer that option if it would be more convenient for families.
Question Will moving 37 kids make that much of a difference?
Response: By moving 37 students from Royston Elementary, and steering future students into Courtenay Elementary, we will relieve the current pressures on capacity. Balancing enrolments in our southern community of elementary schools, will allow us to receive funding for expansions at Royston and Cumberland.
Question Why are answers to these questions contradicting each other? When grade restructuring is suggested, you say the main problem is filling Courtenay El to get grant money for expansion. (Solves over capacity issues at Royston).

When other options are given for filling Courtenay El, you respond with the main problem being over capacity at Royston. There have been plausible suggestions to solve both problems WITHOUT a boundary change.

Please give responses that explain why the other options and solutions presented are not being seriously considered other than saying by solving one problem is doesn’t solve the other.

Response: Moving district programs into Courtenay Elementary School does help resolve the under-capacity issues at the school, but it doesn’t address the over-capacity issues at Royston.

We are already housing district programs at Courtenay Elementary School (Challenge Program, Montessori Program.) It is only a partial fix. In order to resolve the long-term over-capacity issue at Royston, we need to make significant adjustments at that school. Our current projections show that Royston will be at 341 students by 2023 – far above the school’s operating capacity.

The long-range facility plan was developed with hundreds of hours both from operations and educational programming perspectives. Many scenarios were considered and weighed against selection criteria. In making the decision to explore this boundary change, the Board was attentive to the district-wide feedback obtained in the extensive 2019-2020 boundary consultations.

However, boundaries and catchments are not set in stone and some disruption is unavoidable when infrastructure cannot be expanded and there is simply no more space for the projected students within a school’s catchment.

Question Can you wait until you see what the Kindergarten Registration numbers look like before making a decision? If numbers for kindergarten enrolment are low, could the students not stay at the school?
Response: We are currently monitoring those numbers. Royston is already at the projected number of Kindergarten students right now. We confidently expect Kindergarten numbers to be well over the projected number.
Question What will happen in this boundary area to Royston’s current grade six students that are planning on going to Cumberland next school year?
Response: These students would keep going to Cumberland unless a decision is made, and they want to go to Lake Trail. This could occur because they may have a younger sibling who would eventually go to Lake Trail.
Question Why now? Without repeating the many, many arguments against this boundary change, my question to ask the Board and Trustees is this absolutely necessary right now?

It simply comes down to the happiness and well-being of all the kids that this would ultimately affect – my children included. I have heard Trustees say “kids are resilient” and it’s true they are. These comments made me wonder if these same Trustees still have young kids at elementary age, and have they been paying attention the last couple of years?

All that has been endured and not endured by kids during this pandemic should not be ignored. Cancelled extra curricular activities, lack of play dates, lack of family time, adjusting to masking and never-ending changes to protocols and restrictions, etc etc.

School, and specifically Royston Elementary, has been our constant and we are so thankful for this. My daughter (name redacted) thrived this year at Royston, made best friends, and for the first year we see that the deep roots planted at Royston have given her a fierce sense of confidence. As a parent there is nothing better than watching this.

So I ask the Board and Trustees —- is this absolutely necessary to rip these roots out and ask my daughter to endure another horrible change in a time in history like no other? Is there not simply some other solution or way? Surely the families and children that have embraced this school and flourished here should be given the opportunity to remain in this catchment.

Response: In short, as mentioned above, and in the rationale, there are enrolment pressures that are impacting capacity at the Royston and Cumberland schools.

We have added all the modular classrooms we can at Royston because we are limited by the capacity of the septic system. We have made applications for capital expansions for both sites, and one of the requirements is that we make necessary boundary shifts to help address as much as possible the overcapacity we are experiencing at Royston.

It happens that we have space in a neighbouring school – Courtenay Elementary – and that is why the proposed shift in school boundaries.

Question How many kids live in the Courtenay El attachment but go to school elsewhere? If Royston students are expected to fill Courtenay El. spaces, it would only be fair and appropriate to require students that reside within the current Courtenay El. catchment to attend Courtenay El. as well.
Response: The problem is not the underutilization of Courtenay Elementary; it is the overcapacity of Royston.
Question How much is Courtenay El under capacity? How many more students are required for school to be full?
Response: Courtenay Elementary’s current enrolment is about 56% of it’s maximum capacity. The issue is not filling Courtenay Elementary, but dealing with the overcapacity at Royston.
Question How many kids go to Royston that do not live in Royston catchment? Cross-boundary requests may be currently closed, but there may be students that were approved in the past and still attend Royston even though it is not their catchment school. It’s important to know how cross boundary students may be affecting population at Royston.
Response: The actual number is very few as Royston has been closed for cross-boundary transfers the past two years. Students attending Royston who reside outside of the boundary catchment area will be addressed should the Board approve a boundary change.
Question Why are you not representing the Courtenay El parents? There is too much focus on the Royston families, but this will affect how great our school is. As a parent of a child at Courtenay El, I don’t want more kids or to change the dynamic of our school.
Response: We try to consider the interests of all families throughout SD 71 as we make decisions about our schools.

Mental Health, diverse learning needs and impact of move

Question What kind of support will be provided to the impacted children when they are forced to leave their friends and teachers?
Response: As with all transitions between schools, support is based on individuals needs. In many cases there may be the need to offer pre-transitions meetings, tours, meetings with teachers, parent nights etc. Our schools will develop transition plans based on the needs of students and families.

These decisions are not made lightly, and we know this will impact the lives of some families in our district.

We are committed to providing the supports to meet the needs of each student.

Question Has this change been reviewed by a physiologist for possible impacts on children during COVID times?
Response: Our past experience around school closures and boundary changes suggests that children are resilient and will adapt very quickly.

These decisions are not made lightly, and we know this will impact the lives of some families in our district.

We are committed to providing the support to meet the needs of each student.

Question What emotional supports will be provided to children who have been forced to leave their home school and their friends?
Response: See above
Question That is such a harsh change to their environment. Who is thinking of the children? Is this really the best choice for them? With mental health issues being at an all-time high, we need to support children & their future.
Response: See above
Question How are you taking the kids mental health into perspective with this plan?

As a mental health therapist and registered social worker, I support kids and adults, many of whom reflect on the trauma of being ripped from their peer groups at pivotal times for one reason or another. Often these are moves that require relocation for a family to financially survive, or divorce or deployment, not school districts shuffling kids around. These scars are lasting.

Moves that come at pivotal developmental stages have huge impacts on children’s mental health. Consider the stress our little people are already under at this time; moving a small little pocket of kids to different schools is beyond short-sighted in my mind. My son, who would be impacted, struggles socially.

I feel sick to my stomach to think about what such a change like this could have on him. We moved to The Ridge so he could be in a small school; it has taken him several years to feel a sense of belonging in his peer group, only one of whom is from The Ridge.

Moving him at this time would have devastating consequences and open him up to a variety of risk factors that are present when kids don’t feel a sense of belonging with their peer group. I beg you to consider what the impact of this decision would have on the children and families affected by this boundary change.

Response: See above
Question Have you thought at all about the psychological impact this will have on children specially after these past two years, at the most sensitive vulnerable point in their lives?
Response: See above
Question What happens to children who will be emotionally damaged by the sudden change?
Response: See above
Question What are you doing with special needs children that need routine and familiarity? Are you going to put their needs first? This will cause my child so much stress, you really have no idea what this has already done!
Response: Our past experience around school closures and boundary changes suggests that children are resilient and will adapt very quickly. All schools will have support available to help children should they require it. Support is based on individual needs. We are committed to supporting our students, particularly those with diverse abilities and learning needs.
Question Our child now associates Royston Elementary with being a safe fun place. Are we willing to put the children through this again?
Response: All our schools are safe and welcoming, and we know that children are resilient and will adapt to change. The same level of care that exists in Royston will also be in our other schools.

These decisions are not made lightly, and we know any changes will impact the lives of some families in our district.

Grandfathering of current students

Question If children are already attending Royston but live in the blue outline, will they be allowed to stay at Royston if desired?
Response: That will be a decision the Board will make in conjunction with a boundary change. They may decide to grandfather all students or a certain grade depending on the capacity of the school. Once a decision is made, these types of scenarios may be explored.
Question Can some students avoid this?
Response: See above
Question Will Children currently enrolled be able to stay?
Response: See above
Question Will children currently at Royston have to move?
Response: See above
Question Have you discussed “grandparenting” to allow current students to stay at the same school?
Response: See above
Question Will existing families have an option to be grandfathered in to stay?
Response: See above
Question If bussing is not an issue, would consideration be given to grandfathering existing students?
Response: See above
Question Could you please grandfather the children in and start this now for new enrolments? This would be completely devastating to move my girl in Grade 4 away from her friends. With all that is going on with COVID, these childrens’ mental health requirements need to play a part in your decisions. You cannot rip them away from their peers.
Response: The board may decide to grandfather all students or a certain grade depending on the capacity of the school. Once a decision is made, these types of scenarios may be explored.

These decisions are not made lightly, and we know this will impact the lives of some families in our district.  We are committed to providing the support to meet the needs of each student.

Question Could there be some consideration for special cases? Is there any consideration for those kids who have started school and have had major adjustment issues? Or grandfathering kids who are currently attending and not allowing new students? It seems like a terrible thing to have a child who has finally adjusted to their school have to go through the whole process again. It was traumatic for the whole family, as well as the boy’s friends.

Have the people who are being affected and the other parents been allowed a chance to fundraise and get the septic and modular issues covered? Could we make a team and get this process happening? Give us a chance to make our school better.

Response: SD 71 has always taken into consideration exceptional circumstances when making placement decisions.

The board may decide to grandfather all students or a certain grade depending on the capacity of the school. Once a decision is made, these types of scenarios may be explored.

The cost of a new septic system and modular classrooms is significant, and it is unrealistic to have this as a target for fundraising or to ask parents to fundraise. We have never requested fundraising be used for major capital expenditures.

Question If you grandfather in the current students, I would hope that all Grade 4-6 students will stay at Royston — is that possible?
Response: Decisions around grandfathering will be made after a board decision on the proposed boundary catchment change is made. Should the Board request this option be explored, space availability for grandfathering students will be considered for both the short term and long term, prior to any decisions. It is unlikely we’d be able to grandfather that many students without making the proposed boundary change redundant.
Question Grade 4-5 students – what will happen to these students? They need more than a year to build their network. Will they be grandfathered in?
Response: See above responses regarding possible grandfathering of students.

Expansions, upgrades, reports

Question Can the District provide a copy of the completed feasibility study for the future sewer and septic infrastructure upgrade? Can you confirm the original installation date of this system and provide any historical system upgrade information?
Response: The Royston sewage system was built in 1996 by Hydroxyl Systems Inc. In 2021, SD 71 conducted some improvements by digging up selected runs of the septic field and replacing the pipes and drainage material.

There are two reports attached that provide further insight into the sewage system at Royston.  The report titled “Royston – Compliance Report May 2020” is a thorough review of the existing condition and capacity of the Royston system conducted by Tobin Laughlin of Rock Creek Environmental.  The second report titled “cd10052.01 Nexom Proposal” is a replacement sewage system package proposed by an independent wastewater professional as a suitable upgrade for the Royston sewage system. The replacement is estimated to cost $1.2 million.

In January 2022, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) submitted a grant request to the federal government for infrastructure funds to build the south sewer connection.  This project, if approved, will enable the school district to connect Royston Elementary to a municipal sewer system. If the grant is approved in 2022, it will likely take three years to design, award and construct the sewer line. It does not make sense to invest in a new septic system when the current one has five or more years left on its lifespan, particularly if we are able to hook up to the new sewer system in a similar timeframe.

Questions Why can’t you just add to the school?
Response: We are trying to get a capital expansion from the Ministry for Royston and Cumberland schools and in order to receive funding we must demonstrate that we have done everything that is possible locally, up to and including shifting boundaries to level out school populations.

We are also looking at solutions to capacity challenges in the rest of the District.

Questions Can we keep things as status quo with using modulars until city sewage is in place? It’s just around the corner. We can hold out until then, as we have so far. The population will not be changing much more
Response: See above
Question After completing consultation and paying for a report, how come there is no planning against the findings?
Response: The Long-Range Facility Plan (LRFP) report is required by the Ministry to determine the state of our facilities and support our capital project plan requests moving forward. It is not a report that we plan against the findings; rather we work toward considering and implementing the findings.

The fundamental premise of an LRFP is to provide a mechanism for school districts to demonstrate they are managing their facilities in an effective, economic and efficient way in support of their educational goals.

The LRFP provides a district-wide framework for key local decisions, such as catchment area changes, locations for District programs, re-purposing surplus District facilities, potential school closures and consolidations, and maintenance priorities.

Question We do not support proposed changes to the catchment in regards to changing the boundary line for Courtenay Elementary. Families have bought in the areas you are proposing to impact to have their children attend Royston Elementary, and to hear it possibly will be changed without being voted on by the families being impacted by it is truly disappointing. It is impacting more than 15 families who are currently enrolled in schools. It also impacts families who have children coming into the school systems in the next few years. We should be voting on this!

This is not a long-term solution. This is a band-aid solution. The Comox Valley population is expanding rapidly. Who’s to say you make this boundary line change and won’t run into the same problems at Courtenay Elementary in a year’s time? Have you surveyed how many children are living in these areas who are not of age to attend elementary school now but will be in a few year’s time?

Has any thought gone into evaluating the age range for elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools?

These children have experienced enough transition in the past two years. They need their support systems more than ever.

Response: The Long Range Facilities Plan report is an in depth report that covers everything from boundary changes to grade structures. All of which are considered when planning for the future. As a District, we do our best to predict enrollment growth and gear our responses toward long term solutions versus short term band-aids. Which is why in this case we are looking at a boundary change to accommodate growth over time.

There has been significant consideration into many options. Comox Valley Schools held extensive consultations about school catchments and boundaries in 2019 through 2020. During the initial rounds of consultation sessions, over 350 people attended school meetings and 2,000 completed the online survey. The board looked at boundary/catchment solutions, but only shorter-term mitigations occurred, at that time.

Questions Option C in your LRFP report had the least amount of negatives, and the most positives according to the summary within the report. Instead, you have opted for Option A – the status quo.

The report also outlines that varied grades create obstacles in staffing, education delivery, etc. I feel that you are not addressing the inherent problems that were outlined in this extensive report. You are putting your fingers in the dam regarding population growth and the changes that need to be made.

Why bother with this huge, probably expensive report if you are just going to keep things the same except for the tiny measure of picking on 37 kids for the boundary change from Royston to Courtenay?

Response: The purpose of a Long-Range Facility Plan (LRFP) is to review:

  • Current District facilities
  • Current structures and configurations
  • Compare that to projected growth with the goal of identifying options for the District to consider.

Your question refers specifically to Option C in the LRFP and the evaluation on page 97. Option C would have converted Queneesh Elementary to a K-9 school, changed Highland from a high school to a middle school, and required catchment boundary adjustments.

There are two negatives:

  1. It would have created significant family disruption
  2. It would have required resources to renovate Queneesh and Highland.

In addition to the negatives in the LRFP report, we determined this option would create projected capacity challenges in other schools in the District, particularly Queneesh and Cumberland.

Of the 5 criteria on page 97, the Board determined that minimizing family disruption was their main priority. As you will note, Option A was the only option that was positively evaluated against that criteria.

Thus, Option A was determined to be the preferred option noting that some adjustments were necessary to make this option fully feasible.

Questions Is the government’s expansion funding requirements impairing the boards ability to make sound decisions for our children?
Response: The ministry looks at the big picture of the Province as they review capital costs for site acquisitions, new school construction and school additions or renovations.

Boards of education submit capital plans that include details on school building priorities in their school districts. The provincial government establishes an overall capital budget for schools based on the ministry’s capital allocation.

Each capital request is analyzed according to specific criteria and available resources are allocated to the highest-priority projects provincially. The ministry will not fund expansions when there are open seats at nearby schools.

Questions Can you confirm the following: Are all of Courtenay Elementary’s Seismic Upgrades 100% complete? As per the SD71 LRFP Report, a portion of the school still requires Seismic Upgrades. These have been identified in the report as the highest priority of the district – an H1 Category Risk.
Response: A seismic upgrade project has not yet happened at Courtenay Elementary because it is no longer the highest priority provincially for SD71.

Subsequent to the Long Range Facilities Plans being finalized, the ministry’s Capital Branch added an additional criteria to the Seismic H1 category. This shifted the District’s seismic priorities in its Capital Plan submission in June. The District no longer has any buildings in the H1 P1 Seismic category (which is actually a good thing).

The Annex at Cumberland is H1 P2 so it is now our number one seismic priority on our Capital Plan and has the best chance of getting funded. Courtenay Elementary, Airport Elementary, and Tsolum Elementary are the next highest priorities at H1 P3. Royston Elementary has a H2 P3 seismic rating.

It is critical to balance the catchments, so that we can combine our expansion requests with a seismic project and the daycare at Cumberland.

That being said, facilities have made improvements to upgrade safety at Courtenay Elementary utilizing Annual Facilities Grant funding from the ministry.

Questions Isn’t Courtenay El. already slated to be full with expanding Montessori program and additional Kindergarten class?

What happens as Montessori program becomes bigger, which is inevitable given the growth of the Valley. Will Courtenay El also end up over capacity and requiring portables?

Response: There is currently some space in the second Montessori class that has been added to Courtenay Elementary and hopefully we will be adding more students in the months ahead. However, as with any District choice program, if enrollments exceed capacity, sometimes choice enrollment needs to be capped. We don’t anticipate enrolments to near maximum capacity levels in the foreseeable future at Courtenay elementary.
Questions Recent Modular Install at Royston. Can you provide a link with the complete drawing package (Arch, Mech and Elec) for the recent modular and washroom project at Royston?

I believe this was completed in the summer of 2020.

Response: As these drawings have no relevance to the overcrowding of the school or to the limitations of the septic system, they are not part of the information package that will be made available.
Questions Capital Submission Plan. Figure 4.7 – Most Recent Capital Submissions. Can you provide a copy of the Royston El – Construction Addition of 2 kgn + 6 classrooms. Capital Submission?

As noted in the LRFP this is the #1 Priority for Additions.

Response: When the Ministry changed the seismic and risk criteria, our capital plan priorities changed from when the plan was submitted.

In the 22/23 Capital Plan submission, Cumberland is the number one priority – it combines an expansion request with seismic, demolition and daycare funding.

The supporting documents for the District capital plan submissions are not public documents. Until a project is approved by Capital Branch and Treasury Board, they are high level, concept plans.

A Royston expansion is now our number two priority.

Questions Have you considered installing an exterior holding tank that could be used for the short term to accommodate additional portables until expansion takes place?

If septic system can’t handle it, supplement it with a temporary measure that can be removed once connected to CVRD or get expansion funding

Response: There are a number of factors to consider when looking at above or below ground septic tanks, including whether it’s a reasonable solution for a school site. This type of set-up would entail regular maintenance and would likely have to be emptied weekly.

This would occur in an area with children often present and other community members who live nearby. Another issue to consider is whether VIHA would approve such a set-up for a school site. It is unlikely they would in this case.

Questions Will future seismic upgrades at Courtenay El cause additional displacement for kids?

We hope that upgrades would happen during summer months as we especially don’t want to find out that if we end up at Courtenay that our students will need to be temporarily housed somewhere else again for seismic upgrades

Response: Students have remained in their schools for all seismic upgrade projects that have been completed to date in SD 71.

Work is completed in phases with kids shifting to different rooms in the school or to a portable on the school site. This type of project generally does not require students to move to a different school.

Childcare and commute

Question For those of us who have a placement in after school Wee Care, will there be a guaranteed spot if we are kicked out of our neighbouring school? Having our children removed from a school they are already comfortable with would be emotionally traumatic for them.
Response: We will work with childcare providers to support the transition and to provide care. Childcare services are increasing in SD 71 and we know how important they are to families. We will do our best to accommodate families impacted by a boundary shift.
Question Can you provide a definite spot in after school care for our children who have spots in Royston’s Wee Care?
Response: See above
Question How are you expecting our children who have 5 minute bus rides to Royston Elementary to be on a bus anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get to Courtenay Elementary?
Response: The distance from the affected areas to either Royston or Courtenay is very similar and there would not be a significant increase in transportation time.

Consider Other Options

Question Why disrupt the future of an entire neighbourhood community of families, when an adjustment to the grade system at Cumberland, where kids inevitably move on to high school, could remedy the issue?
Response: An adjustment of grade configuration may alleviate the problems at Royston, however, it may necessitate a need for a grade restructure in Cumberland in the near future, depending on enrollment.

Cumberland Community School currently has 570 students enrolled. The school’s operating capacity is 545 without modular classrooms and 595 students using two modulars. Moving Grade 6 students from Royston would very likely require the addition of modular classrooms at Cumberland and possibly revisiting the Grade structure in the future.

This shift would also mean there would still be considerable space and extra capacity at Courtenay Elementary, which limits the district’s ability to apply for expansions at Royston and Cumberland.

Question Why can’t the oldest Cumberland kids go to Vanier at the same time as their peers to open up room to move grade 6 from Royston to Cumberland?
Response: See above
Questions If the proposed boundary change goes into effect, has the emotional and mental well-being of the 40 students (and families) from all different grades at Royston, been considered?

At Courtenay Elementary they would be put into all different classes with no friends. How traumatic will that be for them during a two year period where they have already been dealing with trauma?

Additionally, if they have siblings who are at Cumberland, they would also be separated from their siblings in the upcoming years. More trauma.

Has the option of moving Royston grade 6 to Cumberland and Cumberland 9s to Vanier been considered? With this option there would be a whole group of students who are the same age and same grade going together. The same would be for Cumberland grade 9s being moved as a whole group to Vanier.

I believe there is a bigger picture than numbers that needs to be considered. It is the well-being of 40 Royston children from all different grades, and their families.

Has the impact of COVID on their lives and schooling not been enough trauma for these students?

Response: See above
Question Could we move grade 6 students to Cumberland Community School?
Response: It is something that was also considered. This would cause the board to reexamine the structure at Cumberland due to its growth and current overcapacity. A change would have to occur in Cumberland at some point to accommodate more students.
Question Can you do a little bit of both? Move grade 6 to Cumberland Community School, and then change the boundaries, but having them affect only any new and future enrolled students. Over the next few years you will have all students in the boundaries going to the right schools, and not having to move any of the current 40 students that would be technically out of bounds away from their friends/teachers and familiar routines and community. Especially in the times that we are in right now. Moving children away from friends can have some serious effects on their anxiety/stress and mental well-being.
Response: This could be examined; however, any move of students to Cumberland may put pressure on that school, which is also over capacity and scheduled to grow. This may cause further planning and restructuring at Cumberland.
Question The Ridge development is near completion so likely won’t be adding many more kids in the near future. What about Union Bay? In order to service the amount of homes in that development, the schools will need upgrades and space. Why not just do it now and not displace a bunch of current families and siblings that are either already at the school or have been planning to go to that school since living in the ridge. Which has been under development and around for nearly 10 years.
Response: The School District has land that has been set aside for a school once the Union Bay projects are underway. At that point, it is our hope that given the growth, a capital application will be made, and a school build will occur.

Once that is completed, the boundaries for Union Bay will be established and the overall population of the South end of the district will be significantly more than where it is now — or over the next few years.  However, we are years away from that project being started and any students entering our schools.

Question Why is there only one option?
Response: The Board recently looked at two other options, but for the long-term, they felt this might be the best option, so it was decided that they would solicit feedback on this boundary shift.

Comox Valley Schools held extensive consultations about school catchments and boundaries in 2019 through 2020. Many different options were examined. During the initial rounds of consultation sessions, over 350 people attended school meetings and 2,000 completed the online survey.

A report summarizing feedback and issues raised was prepared for the Board to consider in February 2020. The board looked at boundary/catchment solutions, but only shorter-term mitigations occurred, at that time.

Question Have you considered moving Student Services and specialty programs (such as Robotics) to Courtenay Elementary to address under-capacity concerns?
Response: The main problem is not the under capacity of Courtenay Elementary, but the over capacity of other sites. The District is also dealing with capacity issues in other areas of our District and making necessary adjustments to increase instructional spaces.
Question Could the grade 6’s from Royston not move to Lake Trail? This would alleviate some of the capacity concerns at both Cumberland and Royston.

If Royston fed into Lake Trail from grades 6-9 and moved with the group of grade 9’s to Vanier from there? Bussing would be similar. You wouldn’t need to uproot multiple families of grades, just one set that would transition together to Lake Trail?

Response: This option was looked at as a possible variation to Option A during last spring’s LRFP process. In-depth analysis of this option showed it created further inequities in our elementary grade structure and worsened over-capacity issues at Lake Trail, GP Vanier and Royston.

It was determined taking these steps wasn’t as viable as some other variations within Option A.

As the projected number of students at Royston continues to increase, moving grade 6 students without a corresponding boundary adjustment would only be a temporary fix.

Question Has making “middle school” 6-7-8 and having high school commence at grade 9 ever been considered? Option B and Option C in the LRF package are really innovative.

It would help alleviate the over capacity stress in Cumberland and allow a “group transition.’

Response: Those options were considered; however, the level of disruption to families was much higher in those scenarios.

Reverting back to a middle school model was considered during the LRFP. Options B & C were not advanced for two main reasons:

  1. The structure created significant over-capacity at the middle school level, left an imbalance at the high school level, and would have caused District-wide disruption to 1000’s of students and families
  2. Making those changes would also incur a significant financial cost and would have required significant capital investment by the District to renovate the affected schools.