September 23, 2016 - 2:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - A Local Liberal MLA has promised the Kamloops school board he will take its funding requests to build or upgrade schools to the treasury board.
Representatives from Kamloops-Thompson School District met with Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone this week.
“(Stone) is committed to taking forward our requests to the treasury board,” board chair Denise Harper says.
Central to those requests is provincial government money for a new high school to replace South Kamloops Secondary, which is key to capacity issues.
“If we could replace South Kamloops Secondary we could alleviate pressure on the other South Shore secondary schools,” Harper says. “It’s unfair to expect students to learn a modern curriculum in that type of building.”
The last school built in Kamloops was Pacific Way Elementary in 1999, and since then, there hasn’t been any major capital funding coming from the province, she says.
Part of that is due to the decline in enrolment the district has seen over the past 10 years, but that trend seems to have stabilized.
“We’re at more than 14,000 (students) right now,” she says. “That’s a wealth that we’re very happy to have, but what it does is it change the way we were planning.”
The location of those students is leading to pressure. In Juniper Ridge, seven students are on the waitlist at the elementary. In the meantime they’re being bussed to Marion Schilling Elementary.
“Ideally they should be in their neighbourhood,” she says.
Other capacity issues are being felt at Westmount Elementary and in the Aberdeen area.
While the district is looking for $70 million in captial funding, an additional $3.5 million would help purchase portables needed to deal with immediate concerns.
A recent announcement from the Ministry of Education could also help, Harper says. The scrapping of provincial utilization targets will allow the district to manage where students go to school and may help with the request for new schools.
Harper says the utilization targets meant instead of the province funding new schools or renovations where they were needed, they would tell the district to move the students to where existing buildings were vacant. This meant the disctrict incurred school bus costs when they were forced to move students outside of the neighbourhoods in which they lived.
“I think it was a policy of convenience,” Harper says. “They didn’t want to spend the money on construction.”
The province is now moving to a case-by-case model for funding.
While the meeting with Stone went well, Harper says it’s important the province hears from others.
“We need parents to keep the pressure on,” she says. “We need the public to keep the pressure on.”
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