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Too many aging schools create cost dilemma

Half of schools in district need replacements by 2036
September 27, 2016 10:35 A.M.
South Kam secondary, opened in 1952, tops the list of district schools needing replacement.

With half the 46 schools in the district due for replacement in the next 20 years, school trustees will first set their sites on provincial funding for portables to accommodate pockets of enrolment growth in the city.

No matter how they juggle growing demands, though, Kamloops-North Thompson School District and the provincial government are going to be hard-pressed to come up with the funds to replace so many aging schools.

School board chairwoman Denise Harper expressed dismay Monday at the prospect of some students spending all their school years in temporary buildings.

At its regular meeting, the board received a long-range facilities plan from Art McDonald, facilities and transportation director that details existing and emerging school requirements.

Originally projected to fall to 13,000, the district’s enrolment is now forecast to level off above that, between 14,000 and 14,500. Over the past 13 years, the district has closed 13 schools and reconfigured others to manage declining enrolment. Now it has to grapple with too little space, particularly in South Shore high schools.

According to the report, Valleyview secondary will have a capacity utlilization of 176 percent by 2025-26. To a lesser degree, South Kamloops and Sahali also face over-capacity in the not too distant future. Westmount elementary is currently at 126 percent capacity.

Building a new elementary school costs in the neighbourhood of $15 million, while a new secondary school such as the one needed to replace South Kamloops secondary, can cost up to $50 million or more. 

The trouble is, obtaining capital funding from Victoria and building new schools can take up to a decade. Trustees have already been lobbying MLAs and Education Minister Mike Bernier for the means to meet the challenge.

In his 14 years in charge of facilities, McDonald said he’s seen only one major capital project in the district, the NorKam Trades  and Technology Centre at $3.4 million.

The NorKam project, conceived in 2004, took a decade to plan and build.

Portables alone to accommodate current needs will cost $3.5 million at schools including nine at Valleyview secondary, and two each Westmount and Juniper elementary schools.

“One thing we can take from this,” Harper said after hearing McDonald’s summary. “We need to get $3.5 million at least to limp through.”

South Kam secondary, opened in 1952, tops the list of district schools needing replacement. That project alone is estimated to cost $50.4 million.

Other priority replacement projects:

  • Bert Edwards elementary ($13.4 million).
  • Kay Bingham elementary ($15.2 million).
  • Raft River elementary ($15.5 million).
  • AE Perry elementary ($15.2 million).
  • Marion Schilling elementary ($14 million).
  • Beattie elementary ($13.6 million).

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