High demand for specialty rooms at NDSS

Should the school district add more portables at Nanaimo District Secondary School to increase capacity at the already crowded school? It’s one of Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools proposed scenarios to address the problem, but the district acknowledges it wouldn’t ease pressure on specialty rooms at the school.

One of the five scenarios posed by the district to address the problem is to add up to five portables to NDSS, which already has six. The school was built for 1,400 students. Including portables, official capacity is 1,550 and current enrolment is 1,636. Adding portables “would alleviate some of the current pressure but not address future growth,” NLPS’s report on the scenarios notes, and it also wouldn’t increase spaces in specialty rooms such as science labs and elective spaces for foods, woodwork, metalwork, art or the gymnasium.

Excluding Francophone science courses, NLPS says there are 17 blocks of science classes that take place in non-labs at NDSS over the year.

According to the district, 608 students in grades 9-12 selected foods as their primary elective choice. Staff were able to provide 16 sections of foods courses, meaning 224 students could not get their first choice of elective. Many students also selected foods at their first alternate, the district noted. For woodwork and power tech, the likeliness of getting a spot is even less. Partly due to Grade 8 elective rotations, the school can only offer five blocks of each, meaning 58 per cent of students who selected woodwork as their primary choice and 57 per cent of those who selected power tech did not get into the courses.

If the portable scenario is supported by consulted stakeholders, the district says it could have two portables in place for September and two more shortly after. The fifth scenario posed by the district is to expand NDSS and Wellington Secondary by 100 students each; however, it notes that choice would be a medium- to long-term solution as securing funding from the province could take a minimum of five years, and the district would still need to add portables for a short-term solution. The report outlining the scenarios does not indicate what, if any, specialty rooms would be added should an expansion be pursued.

The board of trustees has said its main priority for the district is securing provincial approval and funding to replace NDSS as it needs seismic upgrades, which could be coupled with an expansion. Expansion of Wellington, which is also over capacity, would be a separate request.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder