Members of the Save Cedar Schools Coalition are moving forward in their efforts to save Cedar Secondary School from closure, despite statements from Education Minister Peter Fassbender that he stands behind the decision to close the south-end facility.
Coalition spokesman Steve Rae said the support for changes to the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district's recently adopted 10-year facilities plan that calls for the closure of Cedar secondary and a number of elementary schools in the area has increased dramatically in the past few weeks, with the number of signatures on a petition asking for the changes now exceeding 3,000.
He said he expects a full house at the coalition's community meeting that is planned for Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Cedar Community Hall.
It will also be attended by Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, who has been an active supporter of the coalition.
The school district's nine trustees have also been invited to attend the meeting.
A meeting was also held last week between district officials and Ladysmith Mayor Rob Hutchins and his senior staff, whose community has also raised concerns with the plans for their schools in the facilities plan.
Many members of Ladysmith's town council fear that plans for the reconfiguration of a number of their schools in the plan could adversely impact development plans in the community.
District spokeswoman Donna Reimer said that as part of the extended consultation process on school closures in Ladysmith that was decided in June, the district is in the process of setting up a working group to look at possible alternatives.
She said last week's meeting was the first meeting of the working group, which includes representatives of the Town of Ladysmith, parents, the Stz'uminus First Nation, school principals, trustees and district staff. Rae said the coalition is "more determined than ever" to change the plan and to work with trustees "to find solutions" despite Fassbender's refusal to intercede in the ongoing issue.
"It's (Fassbender's) responsibility to do his best for the kids in this province and we intend to hold him accountable to that," Rae said.
"I think we may still have a long way to go but I'm convinced we'll still win once all the evidence is presented." Trustee Bill Bard said he has no plans to attend the coalition's community meeting at this time, and there seems to be little appetite for many of the other trustees to attend as well.
Bard said he has already informed the coalition that unless new information is presented that would convince him otherwise, he likely won't change his mind on the issue.
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