With Westsyde elementary set to re-open, user groups ponder their future

Cadets a day care and exercise classes now fill the space of the building, which closed as a school in 2006

User groups are in need of new accommodations and answers as the Kamloops-Thompson school district prepares to re-open Westsyde elementary in time for the next school year.

“We are in a bit of a crunch to find a new home [where] we can fit,” said 204 Black Maria cadets parent council chair Christy Campbell.

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The 52-cadet Black Maria use Westsyde elementary on Monday and Wednesday evenings and on the weekends, but can’t share the space with a fully functioning school as the cadets utilize three classrooms, the gym and store personal information and equipment on site, Campbell said.

Stephanie Morrison, owner of Bumble and Bean day care, which provides after-school care for up t0 48 children in the gymnasium, said she is not sure if she’ll be able to stay.

“I think if we find a space that can allow us a little bit more security, we would go to that space,” Morrison said, noting remaining in the the elementary school would likely only be temporary.

She said she has found a new location to move to, but it’s not yet a done deal.

“We’re trying to be proactive,” Morrison said of the pending re-opening of the school.

The situation has been made murkier due to a lack of a concrete timeline from the district as to when users will need to vacate the facility or whether or not they can still be accommodated.

“I was told by, I don’t remember who, that there was three potential move-out dates — March 1st, April 1st and June 1st,” Campbell said.

The air cadet squadron uses the space from September until June, meaning the current season could get interrupted if a new home isn’t in place before renovations begin at the school.

Morrison said she has heard from school district staff that they will try to accommodate the day care if it can, but that not all the answers are known yet.

The school district intends to re-open Westsyde elementary in time for the 2019-2020 school year in response to overcrowding at nearby David Thompson elementary, where a public meeting will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

School district assistant superintendent Rob Schoen said once the board makes its final decision on March 11, the district will have a better sense of the timelines and work needed to re-open the school.

“We can’t begin to plan the renovations and the contractors until the board makes a decision,” he said, noting the school district intends to work with user groups following Wednesday’s public consultation.

“We don’t want to kick people to the streets without some consideration. If we can help them we certainly will,” Schoen said.

Both the cadets and the day care rent space from the City of Kamloops, which also leases the building to operate fitness classes connected to the Westsyde Pool and Fitness Centre — the fate of which also remains up in the air.

Schoen said he has yet to speak with the City of Kamloops regarding classes it runs out of the building.

Campbell said the cadet squadron is looking at renting a storage container for its gear and has a few leads on interim classrooms, but is still in need of a hall to hold parades.

“We would like to hear from the school district and see if maybe they do have a partially empty school we could move to,” she said.

Schoen said the district may be able to help the cadets if it has another facility they can use and may have space to share with the day care and other user groups in both Westsyde or David Thompson elementary schools as the student population will be split between the schools.

The student population at David Thompson is currently listed as 425 and the district estimates it will be slashed to 250 students next fall with a catchment change that will see Westsyde elementary house 175 of those students.

The proposed catchment change would see students living north of Sicamore Drive attend Westsyde elementary. The district previously pegged Pine Springs Road as the cutoff.

At Wednesday’s public meeting, school district staff will present parents with an overview of the facilities report as it pertains to overcrowding at David Thompson. The meeting will give the district a better sense of whether the community supports the school re-opening, Schoen said.

Campbell said she hopes the city and the school board can help the cadets, who moved into the former school building than their previous home, the McArthur Island Youth Centre, was demolished.

“This is a really great program, and it's all about developing young adults into healthy, productive, positive members of the community,” said Campbell.

Westsyde elementary was closed in 2006 due to declining enrolment.

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