KAMLOOPS - With half the schools in Kamloops-Thompson school district 50 years old or more, the province is being asked to start funding new schools in the city.
Around 20 schools are going to need to be replaced over the next 20 years as they age, district facilities director Art McDonald says. Currently seven schools are priorities to be replaced, with a new school and a major addition also on a list of top priorities to ask the Ministry of Education for.
While the district has closed 13 schools over the last 13 years, McDonald says they were all in the wrong areas of the district. The district includes schools from Blue River to Westwold.
“They’re basically all in the wrong spot, that’s part of the challenge,” he says.
While the district closed schools in some areas, others neighbourhoods have seen significant population growth, like Aberdeen.
Part of the issue with the older schools that are open is the size, with many running well above capacity. According to a school district report, 17 schools are running above 100 per cent capacity, with most of them in Kamloops. Inside the city schools are running at an average of 102 per cent capacity, with most schools in south Kamloops running above that mark. Five are running about 130 per cent, including Valleyview Secondary at 176 per cent. The district’s top priority is a replacement for South Kamloops Secondary, which would alleviate pressure at the other two south Kamloops high schools; Sahali Secondary and Valleyview. Currently most schools running above capacity are using portables.
“When they come due for replacement you would try to right size them,” McDonlad says.
The nine expansion and replacement projects in the report equal more than $160 million. With the province unlikely to provide the funds right away, the school district is working on a temporary fix, asking for $3.5 million for more portable classrooms, which school board chair Denise Harper finds unfortunate. She’s concerned students could spend their entire school experience in and out of portables.
The age of the current schools is due to the demographics of the area between the late 1960s to early 1980s. With baby boomers and baby boomers children filling the schools, that’s when new schools were built. Since 1997 there’s been a decline of school age children. Over the past 20 years the district saw the number of students go from 17,659 to around 13,500. The last school built in the district was Pacific Way Elementary in 1999.
Enrolment over the next 10 years are projected to even out, with between 14,000 and 14,500 students in the district. This year saw a few more than expected as students relocated from out of the province and around the B.C. to Kamloops.
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