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$400,000 needed to buy time for aging school

South Kamloops secondary replacement could be years away
August 26, 2015 4:00 A.M.

School trustees will be asked to approve a capital funding request of $400,000 to buy time for an aging and inadequate South Kamloops secondary.

The stopgap measure — it could be years before the school district obtains the roughly $50 million needed to build a new school — will be among priorities on the agenda as school board meets next week before classes resume.

School District 73 originally sought capital funding to replace the whole school, which was built in 1951, but that request was pushed aside by more pressing seismic work on Vancouver schools.

At a superintendent’s meeting in Kelowna last week, Eduction Minister Mike Bernier announced an additional $20 million to help districts extend the life of facilities. While the funding fits the bill in Kamloops, all requests must be in by Sept. 15.

Why spend $400,000 on a school slated to be demolished with a few years?

“It will buy seven or eight years until that whole high school building is completely replaced,” said Supt. Karl deBruijn. “Kids entering Grade 5 will not see a new school. It takes that long from the design stage.”

Parts of the former Kamloops High building are museum-like in their vintage, having served the grandparents of some students currently enrolled. The gymnasium, some labs and washrooms badly need upgrading. Labs lack the wiring necessary to accommodate modern equipment that goes hand-in-hand with instruction.

While he hopes the district can obtain the short-term capital funds, deBruijn said they intend to stay focused on the larger goal of replacing the school. The ministry announced in June that it is prepared to reconsider capital funding requests now that the Lower Mainland seismic program — quake-proofing older schools — has progressed. A capital plan is in the works and will be resubmitted to Victoria in the fall.

Another district priority is to renew its five-year strategic plan. The last one expired a year ago. A two-year interim plan was adopted in the interim. The guiding document is an essential.

“We need to be ready to bring that forward to the public a new strategic plan. That’s the No. 1 focus from my perspective for that school year.”

A new kindergarten to Grade 9 curriculum, meanwhile, will be partly introduced into classrooms this school year, a dual track year, with full implementation next year. That will be followed by a new graduation curriculum for Grades 10 to 12, in 2016 for implementation in 2017. Those will dovetail with the new B.C. Education Plan.

“We’ve got a couple years off hard work ahead of us,” deBruijn said. “We’re really looking at getting kids more engaged in their studies,” he added, noting the pace of change since the last curriculum came in eight or nine years ago. 

“It’s not the same world.”

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