The Beaver Valley Junior Secondary School was built in October 1970 and renamed Beaver Valley Middle School in 1994. The school closed in 2003 and although it was purchased by a private citizen, the site has been vacant for years. (Photo courtesy Kootenay Columbia Educational Heritage Society website)

Fruitvale procures old middle school

After UBCM discussions last fall, the village purchased the site through public foreclosure Jan. 19

The Village of Fruitvale has made first steps in revitalizing a long vacant property on Columbia Gardens Road, the former Beaver Valley Middle School.

Through a Jan. 19 public foreclosure process in Rossland Provincial Court, the municipality acquired the 2.6-acre parcel for $149,000.

Last fall, during the annual Union of BC Municipalities conference, Fruitvale Mayor Patricia Cecchini and Coun. Tabatha Webber met with BC Deputy Premier Carole James and Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson to discuss then-hypothetical opportunities for the site.

Each had since responded with letters of support, promoting partnership in re-casting the site should the village prove successful in acquiring it, Fruitvale’s Jan. 22 news release stated.

“Therefore, while questions on the deteriorating condition of the existing building and future plans for it remain as yet undetermined, the village’s potential to secure development assistance has been enhanced, furthered by the successful acquisition.”

With the purchase completed, Fruitvale council can now review and amend the zoning on the site in order to facilitate Official Community Plan (OCP) policies.

What that means, is through council process, the property can be re-zoned for uses other than Residential Mixed Use.

“As discussions get underway, mayor and council will, along with the village’s administration, assess the site and its current capacities,” the village stated.

“Next steps leading toward an overall plan for the site will follow and include further discussions on partnership opportunities as previously offered by Deputy Premier James and Minister Robinson.”

In the immediate analysis, the acquisition of 1800 Columbia Gardens Road results in public ownership of a sizeable parcel adjacent to servicing infrastructure, residential and recreational lands, the municipality states.

“Going forward, mayor and council, along with village administration, will work collaboratively with all residents to ensure that future outcomes on the site meet the stated objectives of Fruitvale’s OCP and Strategic Plans. Stay tuned.”

According to School District 20 history, by the late 1960’s the old Fruitvale School on Laurie Street and the new elementary school on Columbia Gardens Road were filled to capacity.

A new junior high school – the Beaver Valley Junior High School – was built further along Columbia Gardens Road, and in October 1970, Principal Lloyd Wilkinson and staff supervised pupils from grades 8 through 10 as they carried their desks down the street to the new school.

In 1967, two Grade 7 classes moved into the school, leaving one Grade 7 class at Fruitvale Elementary. Subsequent years saw the grade configuration and the school’s name change numerous times as Grade 7 pupils from Montrose Elementary were added and in 1989, Grade 6 children were included in the school. While the school’s name officially changed to Valley Middle School for the 1993-94 school year, the final name of Beaver Valley Middle School was adopted in 1994. In June 2003, pupils in grades 6 through 8 saw Beaver Valley Middle School empty and close. Grades 6 and 7 pupils rejoined Fruitvale Elementary.

Looking back at Trail Daily Times story from Nov. 19, 2003 titled,”Renovating middle schools not worthwhile, report suggests,” the article noted: “As for the Beaver Valley Middle School, the committee concluded that the $1.1 million cost to renovate the 33-year-old building and convert it to an elementary school isn’t warranted, given that Fruitvale (Elementary) was renovated in 1994.”

According to “International school opening in Fruitvale,” a Trail Daily Times story from July 2009, Harry Jung purchased the property to develop it into an international school for Korean students.

Jung received a negative response from community members after knocking down over 80 100-year-old trees. In a follow up Letter to the Editor, the consulting arborist wrote, “For many years now, the trees on the school grounds have been declining in health. Many had thin foliage, stem injuries, root rot, and were not safe for the location as a public school ground.”