Losing multi-purpose rooms to overcrowding has the Kamloops-Thompson school board taking stock of long-term needs.
School District 73 approved adding six new portables for the coming year and another six rooms in various schools are expected to be repurposed to address the issue, which usually means sacrificing specialty areas, like computer labs, to add classrooms.
“Space is a challenge,” said SD73 superintendent Alison Sidow. “Where it becomes problematic is when we don’t have multi-purpose space for learning assistance of for music, so we’re losing our specialty spaces.”
Concerned about losing more of these rooms over time, Sidow said the school board has asked staff to draft an official district plan to identify where additional schools will be needed and the baseline standard of specialty rooms that should be included within SD73’s schools.
“In a modern school you would expect to have those kinds of spaces for kids to work in small groups to get some additional assistance and support,” Sidow said, noting music should be taught in a proper music room and learning assistance done in a multi-purpose room.
The official district plan will encompass a 30-year outlook, and will also consider how to address aging infrastructure.
“Kamloops is a growing city. We need to align ourselves with the city’s official community plan and we need to begin discussions with our communities around how they envision the future of education,” Sidow said.
The school board is still in the process of determining how to roll out that public consultation for the plan, but Sidow anticipates more information to come out in the coming months.
Enrolment growth continues to be an issue in SD73, and the school district’s long-range facilities report is calling for 13 repurposed rooms and 24 more portables over the next five years to deal with space constraints.
The final numbers won’t be known until classes settle into place, but there are early signs of enrolment growth as Marion Schilling, Juniper Ridge and Dallas elementary schools are expected to be above projections for the 2019-2020 school year.
Pacific Way elementary is another school facing enrolment pressure.
“We know we’re going to continue to see growth in Aberdeen and we are seeing the impact right now,” Sidow said.
The total number of elementary students for 2019-2020 was projected at 8,982.
Projected enrolment at the secondary school level across SD73 is 5,490 — a slight reduction from the previous year, according to assistant superintendent Bill Hamblett.
Sidow said they have filled all teaching positions and, SD73 has a “healthy” number of substitute teachers, but are lacking in a few specialty areas such as french immersion.
Any unfilled postings would come about if finalized enrolment numbers indicate more teachers are needed.