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Huge costs loom for province to accommodate growing Central Okanagan student population

A replacement for Rutland Middle School and a new middle school in West Kelowna are both number one priorities.
November 29, 2018 - 2:00 PM

KELOWNA - It will cost the province hundreds of millions of dollars to accommodate the top school construction priorities of the Central Okanagan school district.

While a rebuild of the aging Rutland Middle School is top of mind with the school district, a new middle school in West Kelowna is also a number one priority.

The reason both projects can be ranked as number one priorities in School District 23’s Five Year Capital Plan is because that document is broken into number of categories, the two most expensive being School Expansion and School Replacement.

“Rutland Middle is the number one priority in the school replacement category,” district secretary-treasurer Eileen Sadlowski told “Westside Secondary is the number one priority in the new school group. They’re both number one’s.”

Also on the list are a Glenmore secondary school and a replacement for Glenmore and George Pringle elementary schools. The total bill for those projects is in the neighbourhood of $268 million.

The cost of a West Kelowna middle school is estimated at $68 million with another $14 million projected as the cost to buy land – if land can be found.

“There is no land that is not in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) that is a suitable site for us to build a middle school,” Sadlowski said. But first the money to buy the land has to be approved by the province.

Rutland Middle School opened in 1949 as Rutland High School and is in need of major repairs or replacement. The problem the school district is facing is finding a place to build.

“We’ve got some options,” Sadlowski said. “Do we repurpose a site within Rutland that we already own with an elementary school on it? That’s not met with a lot of enthusiasm because we’re a growing district and you don’t want to take out another school and need it again in five years.”

An earlier proposal was to convert Quigley Elementary School into Rutland Middle School but that was rejected by the province.

Staff are still re-looking at the possibility of converting another elementary school or looking at whether construction can be managed on the existing Rutland Middle School site, Sadlowski said.

One option might be to build on the playing fields, which are shared with Rutland Senior, then rebuilding the fields but they will likely be smaller. Other options being considered are building in the parking lot or in phases. A report is expected to go the school board in January.

A bit further down the list is Glenmore Secondary School, also at $68 million. The school district is talking with the City of Kelowna about possibly combining the school with a proposed rebuild of Parkinson Recreation Centre.

The school board has Glenmore Secondary slated for construction in 2019/20. The city has the recreation centre construction project pegged for 2022/23 at a cost of about $60 million.

Replacement of Glenmore Elementary, at $40 million, is in the school district’s plans for 2021/22. It is possible it could be approved ahead of the middle schools simply because it’s cheaper and may fit better with the province’s finances. That decision lies with the province. George Pringle, also at $40 million, is on the books for 2021/22.

While the school district is coping with a growing student population, that doesn’t mean nothing is being done.

Canyon Falls Middle School in the Mission is under construction and will open next fall, while a new Lake Country Middle School, which is still to be named, has been approved and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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