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The future of our schools

School District 73 is considering the closure of Stuart Wood Elementary, an aging facility with no accessibility, limited gym and outdoor space and high maintenance costs.
November 12, 2013 - 3:14 PM


KAMLOOPS – As the city continues to grow, school enrolment grows as well–at least in some neighbourhoods. This lopsided growth at city schools has the school district looking at options to better accommodate current and future students.

A report from Kamloops-Thompson School District Assistant Superintendent Karl deBruijn looks at the enrolment projections for city schools and while some areas have fairly easy answers to alleviate any growing pains, some areas are forced to look at more creative ways to accommodate forecasted growth and decline in enrolment.

One of the most notable suggestions in the report is to close the Stuart Wood Elementary school and move the students to the Beattie campus on McGill Road once the Beattie School of Arts campuses, currently split between two locations, have been consolidated at the 9 Avenue location.

“Reducing the enrolment at SKSS will assist the board to achieve its goal of getting the school back into one building and further enabling the consolidation of the K-12 Beattie School of the Arts into one campus at JP (downtown),” deBruijn says in the report.

These adjustments could be made by first moving Pacific Way Elementary Grade 7 students from South Kamloops Secondary School, currently one of the hardest hit schools for enrolment growth with 1,247 students, to Sahali Secondary School. This move to the Lower Sahali school instead of the Downtown school would help alleviate the pressure from South Kamloops and steady the decline at Sahali.

Sahali is expected to experience the biggest decline of all city secondary schools if reconfigurations are not made, with an expected loss of 200 students over the next seven years. Realigning the ward boundaries and moving Pacific Way students to the school would result in a very modest decrease overall and would bring South Kamloops into the 700-900 student range most other secondary schools are at.

In Westsyde the district would like to again look at the possibility of reconfiguring the secondary school to be a Grade 7-9 school and transporting Grade 10-12 students to NorKam. This move would alleviate pressure on two of the local elementary schools and would increase enrolment at NorKam, which is currently undergoing an expansion for trades programming.

Growth at the two French Immersion schools are also adding pressure to the system as interest in the single track elementary program increases. The district has room at the secondary campus to move some outside programs around to open up rooms but could also look at school expansion or adding another school site to the program.

Superintendent Terry Sullivan says good reconfiguration in the past has allowed the district to stay in good financial shape and this is just one of the things they are considering as they conduct more boundary reviews.

“We got rid of a lot of empty space,” Sullivan notes. “We've closed 13 schools since 2002, in Clearwater, Barriere, Chase, Logan Lake, but more were within the city.”

Even following these closures the district saw a continued decline in enrolment but this has been changing over the past few years and as numbers continue to level off Sullivan believes we could see growing numbers start again in the near future, even for Secondary Schools where the decline has been most prominent.

Sullivan says Proper reconfiguration over the next couple of years will play a key part in ensuring future growth is better spread out and that both elementary and secondary schools are better able to handle the influx once growth does start happening again.

The closure of Stuart Wood school would see the building turned back over to the city, which would also reduce maintenance and facility costs for the district. The school has housed students for more than 100 years and is classified a heritage property.

The district is looking for public input on the report and resulting suggestions. Written and electronic responses will be accepted until the end of the year and will make up submissions to the board in February.

Suggestions for Consideration:

South West Sector
1. Effective September 2015, students from Pacific Way Elementary School would be directed to attend secondary school at Sa-Hali Secondary in order to reduce enrolment pressure at SKSS and to increase enrolment and grade cohort size at Sa-Hali Secondary School.

2. Effective September 2016, SKSS be consolidated into one building at the Munro Street site.

3. Effective September 2016, Beattie School of the Arts K-12 be consolidated into one building at the JP Campus on 9th Avenue.

4. Effective September 2016, Stuart Wood School building be closed and the Stuart Wood students be relocated to Beattie School campus on McGill Street.

Westsyde Sector
5. Continue to closely monitor the Westsyde school enrolments over the next several years. Continue to recover and increase elementary classroom space by changing computer labs to mobile labs, adding additional portable space or building additional classrooms as part of the District’s Capital Plan.

6. Work with the City of Kamloops Planning Department to review the Westsyde elementary school catchment area boundaries with the aim of balancing school enrolments and effective September 2015, make the necessary catchment area adjustments.

Dallas and East Sector
7. Continue to closely monitor the Dallas school enrolments over the next several years. Continue to increase elementary classroom space by adding additional portable space or building additional classrooms as part of the District’s Capital Plan.

8. Work with the City of Kamloops Planning Department to determine if development in the Dallas Elementary school catchment area (Campbell Creek) will continue to increase school enrolments. If so, then effective September 2015 adjust the catchment area to divert students to R. L. Clemitson School.

French Immersion Schools
9. Set up a committee to study the feasibility of increasing the capacity of the French Immersion program. The committee would review a list of options such as starting a dual track French Immersion program at an existing school, increasing capacity at South Sa-Hali by adding additional classrooms to the existing school through the use of portables or new construction.

To contact a reporter for this story, email, call (250)819-3723 or tweet @JennStahn.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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