Concerns after drug paraphernalia was found on the grounds of Cowichan Preschool have been brought to the City of Duncan and the RCMP.
Natalie MacGregor, a board member at the preschool, said the paraphernalia, which included discarded needles, was found on school grounds by staff members during regular safety sweeps of the property every morning before students arrive.
The City of Duncan owns the property and leases it to Cowichan Preschool, so MacGregor said the board, teachers and staff at the school brought their concerns to the city, which is already having results.
She said a new sharps box for discarded needles has been added in nearby McAdam Park, a commissionaire is now also patrolling the grounds for paraphernalia and anything out of place even before the teachers make their morning sweep, and police from the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment are conducting more patrols around the school.
“We’re also hoping to build a large fence around the school that can be locked when the preschool is not in session, and we’re looking for the city to grant a variance to build a high fence,” MacGregor said.
“This is the first year that we have had this problem, but we’re feeling positive about the way the city has responded to our concerns.”
RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Krista Hobday said issues around drugs in the Cowichan Valley are ongoing.
She said groups of drug users typically move as a unit from place to place to find sites that are sheltered and out of the public eye.
“They’re not really mindful of where they go, and in this case, it’s on a school ground,” Hobday said.
“Now that we know that they were there, we’ve been doing more patrols around the school to keep them out of there. But we know that we’re not getting rid of them, just forcing them to move along to another place.”
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent acknowledged that drug use is generally a social issue, and the municipality has tried a variety of measures to deal with its impacts over the years.
“It’s a community-wide issue, especially in the urban areas,” he said.
“Island Health has introduced a number of harm reduction initiatives, including clean-needle programs, but the proper disposal and collection of the discarded needles still has to be addressed.”