School District 73 will consider alternative locations for Twin Rivers Education Centre (TREC) students who are being moved from George Hilliard elementary to accommodate Parkcrest elementary students displaced by a fire that levelled their school last week.
On Monday, the Kamloops-Thompson school board unanimously endorsed moving Parkcrest students to George Hilliard, relocating TREC students to a wing at NorKam secondary and sending Four Directions secondary to the United Way’s Tranquille Road location in the interim, while district staff explore placing both alternative programs at the former Happyvale elementary, which is now home to the Big Little Science Centre and two day cares.
The school district initially planned to house TREC for up to three years at NorKam while Parkcrest elementary is rebuilt, but will now assess placing some students elsewhere on an individual basis after parents raised concerns regarding their children attending a traditional high school setting with which they previously had issues.
“In many cases, these students have some mental-health concerns,” SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow told the school board on Monday. “In many cases, they have been underserved by our system, by our society and many are disenfranchised from their own families.”
The plan is to have all relocations done in time for the school week of Monday, Sept.16, with eight portables being sent to NorKam to accommodate the high school’s space needs while TREC occupies space on the second floor of the school across from McArthur Island.
SD73 has seven other sites where programs are run by TREC teachers and, Sidow said, she feels they can find alternative spaces for students who feel uncomfortable attending a standard school.
“I have full faith and trust in my staff to make those decisions for those students,” Sidow told the board, adding that some students and families are comfortable with the NorKam option as it may enable a student to take new courses and/or re-integrate back into that traditional school setting.
While that will be a short-term solution, the district is considering Happyvale as a longer-term option.
Part of staff’s evaluation of Happyvale will be determining if the six-classroom building will have the electrical capacity for the eight portables that would move over from NorKam to accommodate the TREC and Four Directions programs.
“In the mid-term, we do need to get a site such as Happyvale, or maybe it’s leased space somewhere, where the [TREC] community can be together,” Sidow said.
It would take a few months to move the programs into the building as the science centre and day cares need to find new homes and the building requires renovation.
There are 157 students enrolled in TREC at George Hilliard, with about 90 attending full-time, assistant superintendent Bill assistant superintendent Bill Hamblett told KTW.
Hamblett noted some of the seven TREC sites may not be appropriate for high school kids, noting SD73’s Street School in Northills Centre, which is geared towards adults, and the First Steps program for expecting mothers as examples.
There are 36 students in the Four Directions program, an alternate learning environment designed to serve secondary students of Aboriginal ancestry who are more likely to succeed in a smaller, more personal and flexible setting.
Initially, only Four Directions was slated to be placed at Happyvale, which is necessitating the relocation of the Big Little Science Centre to a site to be determined. Moving TREC into that space will also require two daycares — L’il Scholars Preschool and Happy Honeybees Child Care — to find new homes.
Assistant superintendent Rob Schoen told the board staff initially wanted to maintain space for the day cares in order to have as little impact as possible on young learners, but that was reconsidered, given the TREC concerns. He said the school district has informed the day cares they may need to move and will help them find other accommodations.
Trustees on Monday also brought forward and approved two motions that will re-allocate $70,000 to Parkcrest elementary to be put toward replacing school equipment and supplies lost in the Sept. 5 fire.
One motion, from trustee Meghan Wade, allocates $50,000 for the purpose in replenishing the resources of teachers and support staff lost in the fire. A second motion, from trustee Heather Grieve, allocates $20,000 for replenishing student supplies lost in the fire.
The funds come from the school district’s business company, which earns money for SD73, and is separate from funds it receives from the provincial government.
No one was hurt in the blaze, the cause of which is still under investigation. Police have ruled out arson as the cause.
— This story was corrected from a version that incorrectly stated TREC students at NorKam would be housed in portables. The will be placed in the main school. This story was also updated to include more information from SD73’s regular meeting