Minister of Education Rob Fleming said Parkcrest elementary will be rebuilt — hopefully on an express timeline.
“As the province of British Columbia, we’re here to support the school community and get that school rebuilt as soon as we can,” Fleming told KTW.
While School District 73 has had difficulty securing capital funding from the provincial government over the years, the Parkcrest rebuild will not have to to compete against other projects for priority as it will be funded from a different source.
The province has a self-insured emergency fund for situations such as the Parkcrest fire and that money will be used to fund the rebuild, Fleming said.
“This is a program that is designed for replacing schools that are lost through uncontrollable events,” he said.
The ministry plans to move quickly to design and build a replacement Parkcrest elementary and hopes the process can be expedited, Fleming said.
Looking forward to discussing how fast the project can move forward with the school district and City of Kamloops, Fleming said he hopes any unnecessary delays around permitting can be avoided.
An elementary school typically takes three to five years to build, but given the circumstances, Fleming is hoping for a shorter timeline.
“We know we’re going to rebuild,” SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow said. “We’re going to rebuild Parkcrest elementary school and that school will be bigger and better than ever.”
She said she has heard of a commitment from the minister to fast track the project and make a new school a priority, but has yet to hear an announcement from the Ministry of Eduction.
SD73 will be submitting a project development report to the ministry for the rebuild.
In the short term, the ministry will assist with funding school resources, Fleming said, adding that the ministry plans to meet with the school district when it is ready to discuss what resources it will need from province to build as normal an alternate school environment for this year as possible.
Fleming said he was relieved to hear no lives were lost in the fire.
He described the loss of a school as not easy for the students, staff and families.
“They watched that school burn to the ground and that’s a very sad occasion. That’s decades of memories of a school that’s now lost,” he said.
Timia Bond, a former chair of Parkcrest’s parent advisory council, watched the building smoulder last Friday morning.
“I feel for the teachers that have invested so much in to our kids and our community,” Bond said. “I know how much emotion they put in to their schools, but I also know how much financially they put in … and that’s a huge hit.”
SD73 secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch said he has yet to determine a dollar amount for school property lost in the fire or how much will be covered by insurance, but noted hat file is being worked on and he is confident the district will get the support it needs.