Valleyview secondary will soon say goodbye to the nine portables it has relied on for years.
The school is currently at 140 per cent of its capacity, with 942 students filling space meant for 675.
Minister of Education Rob Fleming was at the school on Friday afternoon to announce the facility will soon expand to house 1,200 students, with a $34.5 million project to create the new space.
That additional space includes new classrooms, a new 9,700-square-foot gym, social and eating space and a new sports field. There are also plans for improved pick-up and drop-off areas to keep traffic flowing, as well as room for further expansion in the future.
The province will contribute $32.7 million, while the Kamloops-Thompson school district will fund the remainder — $1.75 million.
The school is the largest in the district. It opened in 1969 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September — the same month Fleming said construction is set to start on the project. The school was previously expanded in 1972, 1994 and 2001.
“We have not lost any time getting to this,” Fleming said, laying out the government’s actions since it came to power nearly two years ago.
“I looked at the books in terms of the capital plan and there was nothing referred, in either the three- or 10-year plan, to Valleyview secondary — and it had become the district’s No. 1 priority. It was nowhere under the previous administration,” Fleming said.
The expansion project is expected to be completed in time for the 2022-2023 school year.
Kamloops-Thompson school district Supt. Alison Sidow said she felt overjoyed for the project to finally be approved.
“We’ve worked long and hard to bring this to the attention of the provincial government,” she said.
But that work isn’t over.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re on our way,” Sidow said.
The superintendent said the district has no secondary space on the South Shore, which might necessitate additions to schools like Sa-Hali secondary.
But there is also pressure in Pineview and Batchelor Heights.
“Westmount is well known to be a school that is over capacity,” she said.
For a time, Sidow said, the district felt like it was not being heard with regard to its capital needs — in part, she said, because enrolment declined for so many years.
She wouldn’t say what the next capital project would be, with the school board set to make that decision after it meets with the city later in the spring.
She said that no other capital plans have been submitted to the government, but she said she is hopeful that when the time comes, the district will be heard.
“I think they’re going to be very open to hearing about future projects that might need to be developed here,” she said.