New schools in Pineview Valley and Sun Peaks and expansions at Westmount elementary, Sa-Hali secondary and Brocklehurst middle school top the lists in School District 73’s 2020-20201 capital plan priorities.
At its regular meeting on Monday, the Kamloops-Thompson school board unanimously approved the plan it will be submitting to the Ministry of Education. The ministry placed new schools and school expansion projects in separate categories for this year’s submissions, which school board chair Kathleen Karpuk said provides the district the benefit of not having to rank a new school or expansion higher than the other.
For example, SD73’s long-range facilities report had an expansion of Westmount elementary listed as the district’s No. 2 priority and a new school in Pineview Valley as No. 3. In the capital plan, they are No. 1 priorities in their respective categories.
“Now we have several different categories where we’re able to say this is the most important in this category and, depending on what ministry priorities are, they have more options to choose,” she said.
Only two new schools are listed — No. 1 being about $24.9 million for a school in Pineview and No. 2 being $25 million for a school in Sun Peaks, which was formerly listed as a lower priority in the facilities report.
The No. 1 priority for expansion projects is a $12.8 million expansion of Westmount elementary, followed by an expansion of Sa-Hali secondary for $22.2 million — for a new gym and more classroom space — and an $8.7 million expansion of Brocklehurst middle school.
SD73 is also continuing to discuss new school sites with the City of Kamloops in major growth areas identified in the municipality’s official community, including upper Aberdeen and Juniper. Karpuk said the school district is in the process of securing Crown land in Pineview Valley and looking into opportunities in Juniper.
The school district owns land in Batchelor Heights, but no new school is earmarked for that area of town, Karpuk said. Rather, SD73 is banking on expanding Westmount elementary — which encompasses Batchelor Heights in its catchment area — to accommodate students from that area of town.
“We wouldn’t have to change the catchment area with that [option],” she said.
Seven schools are listed for replacement on the list, starting with South Kamloops secondary at $87 million, followed by Bert Edwards, Kay Bingham, Raft River, A.E. Perry Marion Schilling and Beattie elementary schools, with funding requests between $18 million and $22 million.
“This list has stayed the same for quite a number of years,” SD73 facilities director Art McDonald told the board. “Every indication from the Ministry of Education is replacements, other than for seismic replacements, aren’t being funded right now, but I think it’s valuable for us to leave this on our list to show we have a need. These buildings aren’t going to last forever.”
Karpuk said she understands the ministry prioritizes replacing schools that are in danger of earthquakes over functional buildings in the local district.
“Right now, our schools are in very good condition for their age. They’re not falling down, we don’t have any major safety concerns,” said Karpuk. “They might not be ideal in terms of WiFi, but they’re structurally sound.”
About half of the schools in the district will require replacement within the next 20 years, according to SD73’s long-range facilities report.
The report identified capital needs to combat overcrowded schools and increasing enrolment that are all included in the 2020-2021 capital plan priorities, but higher up in their respective categories.
Another new category included in the capital plan priorities report is the Rural Districts Program, which provides funding for demolition of vacant buildings owned by the school district. SD73 has listed the former Pinantan elementary and former Red Lake school portable as candidates for that funding, at $140,000 and $65,000, respectively.
Five new dust collector systems for Chase secondary, Brocklehurst middle school, and Clearwater, Barriere and South Kamloops secondary schools are also included in the report’s School Enhancement Program funding priority list.
A boiler upgrade at Aberdeen elementary for $140,000 is pegged as the lone priority under the Carbon Neutral Capital Program and R.L. Clemitson, Westmount and Vavenby elementary schools are listed for new playground equipment.