School District 73 will proceed with catchment changes at a number of Kamloops schools.
The changes were proposed after the district's long-term facilities plan revealed over-utilization at a number of schools, with some around 150 per cent capacity and expected to grow even more.
In April, the district began a consultation process for catchment area changes to a number of Kamloops schools, including Aberdeen/Pacific Way, Sa-Hali/SKSS, Dallas/R.L. Clemitson and Juniper Ridge/Marion Schilling.
On Monday night (June 14), the board made a decision on all proposed changes except Juniper Ridge/Marion Schilling, including the proposed reopening of Ralph Bell elementary. Those schools' consultation period continues until June 21 and a decision is expected on June 28.
District staff put seven recommendations to trustees and all were approved — with some reservations.
In order to relieve pressure at Sa-Hali secondary, which is operating at 135 per cent capacity and has seven portables, South Kamloops secondary boundaries will be extended to absorb some Sa-Hali students.
Dufferin elementary will also be designated as a feeder school to South Kamloops secondary, rather than Sa-Hali secondary. Additionally, a number of district programs at Sa-Hali will be relocated to other schools in the city.
To ease enrolment pressure at Dallas elementary, the catchment area for R.L. Clemitson elementary will be expanded slightly to include the Campbell Creek area and any future development there.
Grade 5 students at Dallas elementary can remain there or enrol at R.L. Clemitson.
At Pacific Way elementary, which is located in the fast-growing area of southwest Kamloops, the catchment area will shrink as the Aberdeen elementary catchment area is extended to the south.
Pacific Way students currently in Grade 5 will remain at that school to complete their Grade 7 year. Siblings of students in that cohort will be allowed to remain or enrol at Aberdeen elementary.
School trustee Kathleen Karpuk voted in favour of the recommendation, but said she did so begrudgingly, voicing her concerns to the board.
Karpuk said she had "very serious concerns" around traffic safety and the need for some students to cross Aberdeen Drive.
"If this passes, we'll need to put some serious pressure on the city to install lights to make it safer for students," she said.
Trustee John O'Fee also had reservations about the recommendation, but ultimately approved it, saying there were not a lot of good alternatives.
"I'm going to support this because we don't have a lot of options, and this is the best of the choices we have available to us," he told the board.
O'Fee said the walkability for students as a result of the changes may be less than ideal, but noted students have been able to handle similar issues at other district schools.
SD73 is also working on a business case for a school in the Pineview Valley area, with the support of the Ministry of Education in hand.
District Supt. Terry Sullivan said that while progress toward building the school is good news for easing enrolment pressures in the southwest sector, it won't solve the problems being addressed by the proposed catchment area changes.
The approved changes will come into effect in the fall of 2022.