Community Schools Association gets a year’s reprieve from school district

Wendy Lambert was exultant. The coordinator of the Chemainus Crofton Community Schools Association had been desperately worried, after the Cowichan Valley School District had cut the budget for her association by $28,000, that the entire program might be in jeopardy.

A hurriedly called meeting, however, rallied the community, and district officials reacted quickly by stepping forward to meet with community schools representatives.

“Good news!” Lambert emailed to her school community May 29. “This afternoon Heidi Elley and I, both from the CCSA, met with [schools superintendent] Joe Rhodes [secretary-treasurer] Robert Harper, [assistant superintendent] Lorna Newman and [assistant secretary-treasurer] Jason Sandquist, to discuss the 50 per cent cut to the CCSA in the [Cowichan Valley School District] budget for the immediate upcoming fiscal year. Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Harper both let us know that our full budget would be reinstated for this coming fiscal year.”

She thanked the community “who expressed such understanding and appreciation of the Community School programs and shared your concerns with others. Your prompt response was extremely helpful.”

Lambert also thanked the district for its second look.

“Administrators and community members have shown the strength of working together for our children and families. The numerous CCSA programs will continue for another year and I am sincerely grateful on behalf of our board, all our participants and our communities,” she said. The CCSA has its district funding reinstated until June 30, 2015.

“The administrators also expressed a willingness to have further conversations to discuss sustaining the budget. We have come a long way in a short time, and I hope we can achieve even more,” Lambert said.

Harper explained that the decision to reinstate the funds for a year is all about finding a permanent solution for the situation for the two North End areas.

“We’ve made a decision that we’ll put that money back into the community schools association for this year and then work with them during this year so we can help them build a sustainable organization,” he said.

The school district’s money, which pays staff salaries, kickstarts the efforts at the two schools, making it possible for them to line up all kinds of programs.

“Only about a quarter of the money they work with is from the district. I saw their financial statements and it’s just over $200,000 in total budget. Some of that is revenue from programs, some of that is grants from other organizations,” Harper said.

After school starts up again, district officials will put their head together with the community schools people, he said.

Several kids’ summer camp programs run by the CCSA, including IronKidz, The Amazing Race and Movie Mania are already set to go.