Funding, enrolment and infrastructure issues highlighted in SD73 facilities plan

Increasing enrolment, a lack of capital funding and aging infrastructure are all challenges that continue to plague School District 73, according to its 2018-2019 long-range facilities plan.

Enrolment projections peg the student population to grow to about 15,700 across the district in 10 years — about 1,700 more than the current number in SD73.

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“We’re seeing ongoing growth pressures across the city [and] until we get some capital [dollar] infusion we’re going to be seeing a lot of new portables,” said school board chair Kathleen Karpuk, noting that acquiring capital funding to build new schools in the district is at the Ministry of Education’s discretion.

Given increasing enrolment projections the report calls for 37 additional classroom spaces at 19 schools in the next five years via either new portables or the repurposing of rooms within buildings.

There will be 13 repurposed rooms at a total cost of about $200,000 and 24 portables added to the tune of $3.6 million, according to the report.

The report calls for multiple additions at Sa-Hali secondary (6), Valleyview secondary (5), Brocklehurst middle school (5), NorKam secondary (4), two at Juniper Ridge elementary and one each at Dallas, Arthur Stevenson, McGowan Park, Pacific Way, David Thompson and Westmount elementary schools, among others.

All of NorKam, Arthur Stevenson, Westmount and Pacific Way’s new spaces will come via repurposed rooms — most likely computer rooms.

Brock, McGowan Park, Sa-Hali, Dallas, Juniper, Valleyview and David Thompson will all receive new portables.

These changes are planned to occur between 2019 and 2023.

The report also outlines the top priorities for SD73 facilities moving forward — an expansion of Valleyview secondary, an addition at Westmount elementary and building a new school in the Pineview Valley area of town being the top three.

The district’s other priorities for its capital plan that includes an addition to South Kamloops secondary to add a new gym and classrooms and a new K-12 school at Sun Peaks to combat consistent growth.

On Kamloops’ south shore, Valleyview, Sa-Hali and South Kamloops secondary schools are all at or over capacity — a trend expected to continue over the next five to 10 years.

The report indicates Sa-Hali will grow from 128 per cent capacity to 147 per cent in five years, so district staff will be requesting the province fund an expansion of the school next June. the district may also need to review lowering the international student population at the school, the report stated.

SD73 is still waiting to hear back from the province regarding its request for funding an expansion at VSS, which currently has nine portables. The school is listed at 140 per cent capacity, projected to increase to 163 per cent in five years.

Westmount elementary, which currently has five portables, sits at 137 per cent over capacity and is expected to be at 142 per cent in five years.

All five elementary schools serving the Pineview Valley area — Aberdeen, Dufferin, McGowan Park, Pacific Way and Summit — will all be more than 120 per cent capacity in five years, making a new school necessary in the area to ease enrolment pressures, the report stated.

In SD73, between 425 and 450 students is considered to be the maximum number an elementary school can accommodate.

Juniper, McGowan Park and Dallas elementary schools are all near this threshold and likely all require catchment changes in a few years.

The report indicated reopening Ralph Bell elementary will be required to accommodate a catchment change to Juniper elementary.

SD73 will also be in need of more buses and more bus routes as enrolment continues to climb.

Four new buses have been approved for the next school year by the board and there are three more requested for the year after in the report.

About half of the schools in the district will require replacement within the next 20 years, according to the report, which also noted the annual facilities grant and other funds used to maintain the district’s buildings is not adequate to continue the current level of upkeep.

The report suggested the district lobby the Ministry of Education for increases to its annual facilities grant and its School Enhancement Program.

The Kamloops-Thompson school board approved the report and three recommendations from it for next year — the first wave of new portables, buses and reopening Westsyde elementary.

The other suggested actions are not set in stone and will be addressed on a case-by-case basis school board chair Kathleen Karpuk told KTW.

The report points to enrolment growth and recent changes in class size and composition language, restored by a 2016 court decision, as the reasons for a lack of extra spaces in SD73.

The decision led to an increase in required classroom spaces for the same number of students and resulted in the district adding 90 teaching positions, which removed the same number of classroom from surplus spaces.

Some schools in SD73 are experiencing rapid enrolment growth and most schools don’t have any surplus spaces the report goes on to stated.

SD73 experienced declining K-12 enrolment from a high of 17,659 students in 1997 to a low of 13,800 in 2014. Enrolment has been climbing in the four years since.

© Kamloops This Week


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