Trustees will take a closer look next week at the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s latest long-range facilities report and its plans for new portables and repurposed rooms.
The school board will discuss the report at a Jan. 15 committee meeting after concerns about the document arose at the board’s final meeting of 2019.
The 2019-2020 report calls for 28 repurposed rooms and 21 new portables in the district between 2020 and 2024 to deal with the pressure of increased enrolment. Portables would cost $3.67 million, while renovation work to classrooms would be $200,000.
The document has the school district planning to repurpose 11 extracurricular rooms in 2020 for classrooms rather than the one that was earmarked for this year in the 2018-2019 report.
The new report shows one room to be repurposed in each of Westsyde and NorKam secondary schools, as well as at Kay Bingham, Bert Edwards, Haldane, Logan Lake, McGowan Park, Dufferin, Dallas, R.L. Clemitson and Westsyde elementary schools.
Westsyde elementary re-opened last September to take enrolment pressure off nearby David Thompson elementary.
School board chair Kathleen Karpuk told KTW the breakdown of portables versus repurposed rooms in the 2019-2020 report is something that will have to be discussed further as the board wants to ensure students have appropriate learning environments.
“When we start re-organizing space and taking away rooms such as learning assistance resource spaces, and when our schools are getting very crowded and not having a lot of flexible space, that decreases learning opportunities for kids,” Karpuk said.
The 2019-2020 report calls for six portables to be added in 2020, including one Marion Schilling elementary and one at Parkcrest elementary (now operating at the former George Hilliard site due to the Sept. 5 fire that destroyed Parkcest’s building).
Two portables are to be placed at Sahali secondary — identified by the school district as requiring an expansion — and two at Valleyview secondary, bringing its total to 12, as an interim measure until a $34.5-million expansion is completed in 2022.
Enrolment across the district is projected to rise — from 15,000 to 15,900 over the next decade, up from an estimated 15,700 over the 10-year time period of last year’s report.
Actual enrolment across the district is listed as 14,795, projected to eclipse 15,000 in 2020 and forecast to nudge 15,800 in the next five years. The school district went from a high of 17,659 students in 1997 to a low of approximately 13,800 in 2014, with enrolment growth every year since.
Karpuk said the projected enrolment increase is the reason why the 2019-2020 long-range facilities report comes with plans for more portables and repurposed rooms than last year. The previous report suggested 13 repurposed rooms and 24 new portables between 2019 and 2023. Six portables were added around the district in 2019, along with six repurposed rooms.
“That’s the point of having this plan revamped every year,” Karpuk said. “As projections go further out, they’re less accurate.”
The number of classrooms to be repurposed in 2021, 2022 and 2023 in this year’s report totals 14, up from six projected in those years in the 2018-2019 report.
New portables to be added over those three years remain the same at 11, while the 2019-2020 report has the district planning to repurpose three rooms and add four portables in 2024.
Westsyde secondary and the elementary schools of R.L Clemitson, Rayleigh, Haldane, Logan Lake and Beattie are all new this year to the list of schools expected to have rooms repurposed in the next five years to handle enrolment growth.
The idea of using more portables over repurposed rooms is expected to be an ongoing discussion for the district over the next couple of ears, secretary treasurer Kelvin Stretch told trustees during a December board meeting.
“What really makes a good school? What sort of amenities should be there?” he asked, noting more common areas and multi-purpose spaces are needed in schools and pointing out the problem with repurposing rooms is it means the loss of spaces, such as music rooms or computer labs.
However, 49 portables would need to be added over the next five years — structures that are costly and not funded by the province — to avoid repurposing any rooms over that time to deal enrolment growth projections.
Trustee John O’Fee suggested staff look at incorporating portables more seamlessly by connecting them to schools.
“Some of these portables, let’s face facts, they’re going to be on a school site for 10 years — that’s no exaggeration,” O’Fee said at a December meeting.
Board vice-chair Rhonda Kershaw didn’t like the idea of replacing 28 rooms in SD73, feeling too many have been lost already.
Trustee Meghan Wade expressed support for O’Fee’s suggestion.
“I agree, we’re in for the long haul on portables,” Wade said.
She also noted topics that should be discussed before adopting the report include the use of bathrooms in relation to portables, how the school district accounts for StrongStart programs in schools when calculating capacity and a decision on whether to expand Westmount elementary or build a new school in Batchelor Heights.
Following the Jan. 15 committee meeting, the 2019-2020 report will likely come back to a school board meeting in late January.