School board business has become city council business in Port Coquitlam.
At Thursday night’s finance and intergovernmental committee meeting, councillors passed a resolution by Coun. Greg Moore inviting PoCo school trustees John Keryluk and Debra Burton to an early January committee meeting to explain why Lincoln elementary is on a list of schools facing possible closure.
The school is the only one from PoCo on the list, released Nov. 28 at a special board meeting, with seven others in locations across School District 43.
But Moore — whose eight-year-old daughter is in Grade 3 at Lincoln — says it’s not justified that the school is facing possible closure because, with a 69% utilization rate in 2006 and 73% predicted for 2008, its enrolment numbers are “fairly healthy.”
Whatever the reasoning, the issue is one that deserves consultation with city councillors, Moore said Friday.
“The school isn’t about numbers, it’s about a community. It’s about its effect on a community and therefore it affects [city council],” he said.
“I think there is also an opportunity for us to work together. If it’s about under-utilization of a school, we might have some community recreation opportunities to go in there... I don’t think any of these decisions are black and white.”
And after a lengthy discussion, councillors agreed with Moore’s resolution (Mayor Scott Young was not in attendance) to sit down with trustees.
Coun. Michael Wright cautioned the city must be careful when treading on school board territory but acting Mayor Mike Forrest said council is forced to act in many areas not intended for municipal government, such as homelessness.
“We’re not just losing schools here, we’re losing play-sites as well,” said Coun. Mike Bowen.
District officials will meet with school principals, parent advisory committees and school planning councils this week to clarify the criteria used in determining school closures but public meetings will not be held until Jan. 8 to 12. Trustees must decide by Feb. 27 whether to close any schools.
Moore argued January is too long to wait for consultations as it doesn’t leave his community enough time to campaign to fight the closure.
“It would be like us finalizing our budget and then them saying, ‘You know, you should put more money into [such and such].’”
Moore also said he has filed a request with School District 43 under the provincial Freedom of Information Act to obtain answers and, although he suspects Lincoln is on the list because the district is avoiding the capital cost of its slated seismic upgrading, he noted he hasn’t confirmed that either.
Meanwhile, a new group called the Concerned Citizens of Lincoln Park is inviting community members — with or without children who attend the school — to attend a “neighbourhood strategy meeting” Dec. 19, 7 p.m. at the school.