Friday, November 07, 2008

Goldstream News Gazette

SD 62 trustee candidates call for new high school

Lobbying the government to build a new high school on the West Shore is priority No. 1, say trustee candidates for the Sooke School District.

The one and only all-candidate meeting for the Belmont Zone — Colwood, Langford, Highlands and Metchosin — drew a few dozen people to question nine trustee hopefuls last week.

Incumbent trustees — Wendy Hobbs, Denise Riley, and Dianna Seaton — and challengers — Don Brown, Don Colgrave, Barry Gribbon, Pat Holloway, Tim Rud and Donald Stewart — faced questions on standardized testing, student retention, future projects, French immersion and magnet schools.

Hobbs, the board of education chair, said class size and composition and aboriginal education is on her radar, but the top priority is to replace Belmont secondary, an aging building overcrowded with students. SD 62 has submitted a request to build two new high schools, one in Royal Bay in Colwood and one possibly on the site of Glen Lake elementary.

“We have heard from lots of parents we need to do something with the existing Belmont school,” Riley agreed. “It is too big, too worn down and too overcrowded.”

On government standardized testing, called foundation skills assessment (FSA) testing, Stewart, a retired teacher, suggested the effort misses students who need the most help.

“There is so much evidence kids are well educated in a large part,” he said. “(FSA testing) doesn’t reflect kids as they are in the classroom.”

In terms of new initiatives, Colgrave said he’d like to see soccer and hockey academies and the trades program expanded. Brown said he’d be happy to see expanded early learning programs and all day kindergarten.

Closing Glen Lake elementary, the most heated issue this year in SD 62, received relatively little attention during the forum. Gribbon and Rud, both who vocally opposed the closure, suggested the public process wasn’t ideal.

“If schools need to close, they need to close with transparency,” Gribbon said. “They need to be transparent with the information coming out and be honest why decisions are being made.”

Seaton defended the decision and the process, saying Glen Lake’s building structure was a concern.

“It was a problem having staff and students in that building year after year,” she said. “The learning opportunities in other schools was better.”

SD 62 board of education trustee election is Nov. 15, same time and location as with municipal elections. See for more information.

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