Without replacement, Central Okanagan schools long overdue for upgrades, repairs - InfoNews

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Without replacement, Central Okanagan schools long overdue for upgrades, repairs

60-year-old Rutland Middle School in Kelowna won't be rebuilt.
Image Credit: Google Earth
January 29, 2019 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - Since rebuilding aging Central Okanagan schools is not going to happen any time soon, it’s time for the province to kick in extra money to keep them running, says the chair of the local school board.

“I believe we need to do some upgrades,” Moyra Baxter told iNFOnews.ca today, Jan. 29. “People will say: ‘Where is that money coming from and how is it going to affect other projects in the district?’ If they (the provincial government) are determined that it’s not a priority, then they need to, at least, give us an envelope of money to do some upgrades.”

Baxter, as chair of the Central Okanagan’s Board of Education, recently received a letter from Education Minister Rob Fleming saying that a rebuild of the 60-year-old Rutland Middle School “is not approved for funding.”

The letter notes that there are a number of B.C. schools that require seismic upgrades and the safety of students and teachers is “a top priority.”

Baxter agrees that safety must come first and, therefore, Okanagan rebuilds, which don’t need the seismic upgrades, can’t compete.

“We don’t have a problem here regarding safety,” Baxter said. “Rutland Middle is not an unsafe school. It’s an inconvenient school because of the lack of accessibility and the lack of washrooms and it’s an old school but it’s not unsafe - although some people may say that.”

A rebuttal to the minister’s letter will be discussed at School District 23’s Board of Education meeting tomorrow.

The board has been reluctant to do upgrades to the school while there was a chance of a replacement but, given that’s not likely to happen, it’s time to do some improvements including a new roof, upstairs washrooms and making the school more accessible.

Rebuilding Glenmore Elementary School is also on the school district’s wish list for 2020/21 along with George Pringle Elementary for the following school year and Raymer Elementary the year after that. Given the province’s response on Rutland Middle, those projects are not likely to get a green light either.

As a first step, Baxter thinks the province should kick in the money for Rutland Middle School upgrades.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” she said. “We’ll get another letter sent off, but I don’t know how much good it will do.”

The school district's top priority for a new school is for a Westside secondary school, a project Baxter expects will be funded.


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