Board votes 5-1 to keep school open, was “counter-intuitive” to close it.
Faced with a $2.4 million deficit for the next school year and looking at $700,000 in savings by closing Ecole Puntledge Park Elementary School, it seemed a forgone conclusion that the board would vote to close Puntledge at its meeting Tuesday night.
However in a vote of 5-1 with one trustee abstaining, the board decided to keep the school open instead.
“This is a good day. This is a good day for public education and for west Courtenay and the Comox Valley” said school supporter Katherine Tinmouth who attended the school as a child and recently moved back to the area from Vancouver so her children can go to it as well.
“I am so happy my kindergartener will go to Puntledge Park next year. We moved into the area in September, last September and he’ll be so pleased. I’m so pleased” added another parent Stephanie Blaikie.
Parents at the school fought long and hard to save it believing, among other things ,that while the district is seeing declining enrolment, Puntledge itself was near capacity and should be preserved.
The trustees expressed different opinions at the meeting in front of a standing room only crowd.
Chair Tom Weber was last to speak saying even though he believed in the reasons why it should close, he also could not stand by and watch the property and building potentially be sold to an independent school that would then be a draw for students needed to fill local public schools.
“It seems to me counter-intuitive that we set up or lay track for other alternate school arrangement outside the district to utilize our schools and arguably take away to some degree our student population” Weber told CHEK News after the meeting.
He says he is not against independent schools but points to local examples of former public schools now being used as vibrant independent schools. One such example he says is the former Brooklyn Elementary School site in Comox, which is now home to roughly 200 Christian students who attend the Phil and Jennie Gaglardi Academy.
The budget problems for the board remain however and now it will need to find the $700,000 savings somewhere else.