Just days following a massive fire that destroyed Parkcrest elementary, School District 73 has unveiled where displaced students and staff will go, but the ripple effect has raised concerns the Kamloops-Thompson school board plans to address.
Beginning on Sept. 16, students of the Brocklehurst school at 2170 Parkcrest Ave. will be moved to nearby George Hilliard elementary, at 985 Holt St., which now houses the Twin Rivers Education Centre (TREC) and the 4 Directions School, two alternative education programs.
The distance between Parkcrest and George Hilliard is 1.6 kilometres.
TREC students will be moving to NorKam senior secondary — across from McArthur Island — where portables will be added to help accommodate the students, while 4 Directions students will move to the former Happyvale elementary at 655 Holt St., which is now home to the Big Little Science Centre.
The plan was finalized over the weekend, with parents and students from all three schools being updated Sunday evening.
News of the move, however, has elicited criticism from members of the school communities regarding whether placing TREC students on a high school campus is the best course of action, given the reason many attend this alternate school is because they have had issues in traditional high school settings.
Those concerns were expressed at Sunday’s meeting, said SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow, adding they will be addressed at Monday night’s school board meeting.
Sidow said the TREC program has seven sites around the school district, noting staff plan to place those “who need a more protected environment” elsewhere.
“We may see the majority of students attend NorKam in the interim and we may see some other students being relocated to other sites where they feel very comfortable,” Sidow said.
She said the needs of Parkcrest students had to be addressed first as they are younger and without a school, but added the district anticipates being able to now tweak its plan to accommodate impacted TREC students.
“We value all of our students and, while older students are in a position to adapt to change more readily, it doesn’t mean they’re not also vulnerable and deserving of the same consideration,” Sidow said.
In formulating the plan, SD73 prioritized keeping Parkcrest students together in their neighbourhood and minimizing the amount of school days missed for the youngest learners, assistant superintendent Rob Schoen told reporters on Monday morning.
“We knew that in order for one group to benefit, another group was going to have to make a sacrifice,” Schoen said. “We know that the folks of Twin Rivers are making a sacrifice for the students of Parkcrest.”
With a student body of about 360 students moving in, George Hilliard elementary will be overcrowded in the interim as the building isn’t quite big enough to house everyone, according to Kamloops-Thompson school board chair Kathleen Karpuk.
Portables will be placed on the property to alleviate that pressure, but they aren’t expected to be in place before Sept. 16.
“We’re going to be waiting on portables. It’s going to take some time to get there,” Karpuk said.
Until portables are in place at George Hilliard, a common room in the school will be used to even out the needed classroom space.
Parkcrest elementary had 16 classrooms, while George Hilliard has 14 classrooms.
Class sizes won't be impacted.
In total, 12 portables are being brought in to accommodate TREC students and Parkcrest students attending George Hilliard.
SD73 secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch said the Ministry of Education will cover the cost of portables, which is normally a cost the school district would have to foot.
Due to the loss of equipment such as desks and chairs from Parkcrest elementary, the school district will modify other existing equipment to make do in the interim, Karpuk said. The Ministry of Education also intends to supply needed resources.
Sidow said she is thankful for ongoing community efforts to raise money and supplies for teachers, some of whom, she said, lost up to $10,000 worth of materials in the fire.
As for the Big Little Science Centre, the facility will relocate to a yet to be determined location.
“We’ve asked the Big Little Science Centre to move out as quickly as possible,” Sidow said.
Until that happens, 4 Directions students will be placed at the United Way’s new office on Tranquille Road after the non-profit stepped up to offer the space in the interim.
Two day cares that operate out of Happyvale will not need to be relocated for now, Sidow said.
An information session for Parkcrest parents is planned for Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Henry Education Grube Centre, at 245 Kitchener Cres., at the north end of Overlanders Bridge.