BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Think outside the box
It should come as no surprise that the Vernon School District administration office has seen better days.
In fact, it wasn’t anything to scream about 23 years ago.
But conditions have only got worse for the 41-year-old structure. The heating system is antique, bread crumbs are needed to navigate the hallway maze and trustees are relegated to a portable just like a primary class.
“The status quo will leave this facility as the highest energy cost, lowest air quality building in the district,” says Wally Neumann, an architect that looked at the integrity of the administration complex on 15th Street.
Now to reinforce the situation, board chairperson Bill Turanski likes to point out that then-education minister Christy Clark once toured the office.
“She said this is the worst board office she’d ever seen,” said Turanski.
It was great that she noticed the conditions, but she did absolutely nothing about it before she left politics in 2005 and she certainly has forgotten about the visit since she became premier in 2011.
“The ministry hasn’t funded renovations to a board office for about 30 years,” said Turanski.
Provincial funding can only go towards a district’s operating expenses so that means there’s no cash for administrative offices although they are completely necessary to provide the support services required by students, parents and teachers.
And considering a projected shortfall of $2.2 million and possibly having to lay off staff and reduce programs, the district has far greater priorities than the board office.
But instead of just looking to Victoria for capital funds that will never materialize, has the school district considered alternatives?
First off, there are two former schools just sitting vacant — West Vernon and Whitevale. Whitevale is likely ruled out because of its location in rural Lumby, but West Vernon is almost in downtown Vernon and highly accessible.
Yes, the building is old, but it has considerable space and classes could be split into offices. The fact that it’s being used for child care proves that West Vernon is still highly functional.
Another option for the district is to tap into the well-supplied rental market. If you haven’t noticed, entire floors of office buildings are available downtown.
Rent isn’t cheap, but selling a chunk of the administrative property could offset those costs (unless the Ministry of Education helps itself to the cash).
Now, some will question the validity of this plan because most administrators would be separated from the transportation and maintenance divisions, which could stay at the 15th Street site. However, that isn’t a stumbling block given that most municipalities have their public works department some distance from city hall.
One of the things teachers encourage students to do is to be creative — to think outside of the box. Same-old, same-old is to be challenged if a more efficient, effective method can be found.
So instead of just waiting for the board office to collapse around their ears, it’s time for trustees and administrators to put on their thinking caps.