September 19, 2016 - 8:00 PM
KAMLOOPS - Kamloops school district representatives will be meeting with a local MLA this week to discuss building new schools in Kamloops.
School board chair Denise Harper says a new secondary school will be the priority in discussions with Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone. She wants to see the provincial government lend a financial hand to the district.
“It’s around $50 million to replace South Kamloops Secondary,” she says. “It’s the oldest public high school in the city.”
The school was built around 1951, making it 65 years old at the beginning of the 2016 school year. As the school district deals with a stabilization of enrolment numbers, the current secondary schools are dealing with capacity issues. Harper says replacing South Kamloops Secondary with a larger facility and redrawing catchment areas will alleviate that issue.
“It’s a lovely school, well preserved, but there are inadequacies,” she says. “For example the washrooms predate Hogwarts.”
With a project of this size, the district is looking to the province for significant funding. Harper says it’s time for the province to look at major projects outside the lower mainland.
She also wants to discuss a new elementary school with Stone. While not a priority like the secondary school, Harper says growth in upper Aberdeen could necessitate a new school. While enrolment has declined over a number of years, the district grew a little this year, and could experience growth in the future.
“We’re experiencing pressure points around the city,” she says.
While the Stuart Wood school building is vacant, Harper says it isn’t suitable as an elementary school anymore with a long list of issues, including housing only half a gymnasium, no room for specialists like speech therapists, no handicap access — which public schools are legally bound to have — and no fire escape from the upper floor, which means it has limited use. Additionally, because the building is well over 100 years old and has heritage status, what the district could modify on the exterior is limited.
“The principal had to arrive early in the morning to shovel up fecal matter sometimes," she says, adding the site isn’t owned by the school district.
The school board decided to move the students and administration from Stuart Wood to the former Beattie School of Arts elementary school after it was vacated this summer because the city’s elementary and secondary arts schools are now housed in one building as of the beginning of this school year.
The school district does have room at some of its schools, but unfortunately they’re not in Kamloops, Harper says, with space in places like Logan Lake and other rural communities.
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