A capital funding priority to replace Rutland Middle School may have hit a financial snag.
After a visit from ministry of education officials last Thursday to review the Central Okanagan School District’s capital spending priorities, the resolution adopted by the board of education to support relocating Rutland Middle to the current Quigley Elementary site and shuffle the displaced primary students to surrounding schools is in some doubt.
While the ministry staff were understanding about a lack of land availability to build a replacement school, the ministry’s preference is to not reduce elementary school inventory to facilitate other capital projects needs.
“They are not saying it’s an absolute no-go, but they are telling us at this point the preference is to not give up an elementary school in order to accommodate a new middle school,” said Mitch Van Aller, school district director of school operations.
Learning that left school district administrative staff to consider other possibilities for Rutland Middle, and one suggestion brought forward was to build the new school on the current site of Pearson Elementary, which Van Aller said is sufficient in size to accommodate both schools.
“The issue in Pearson’s favour is that we wouldn’t be closing down Pearson as a result,” Van Aller said.
The Rutland Middle decision was one of several that trustees serving on the planning and facilities committee were made aware of with little advance notice to discuss.
Those changes include site acquisition, within a target cost of $14,000,000, and construction of a new Westside secondary school, estimated at $68,000,000, as now the top two priorities for the school district expansion program.
Committee member trustee Moyra Baxter was irate at the lack of advance notice to the capital spending program projected for the next five years, where the committee was expected Wednesday to make a recommendation to the school board after seeing the altered capital plan priorities in their meeting agenda package last Friday.
“This is the first time I have heard about the issue with Rutland Middle School, and why are we telling people how much we have to spend to acquire property for a new secondary school on the Westside. Those are decisions that should be made in-camera,” said Baxter, who is chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education.
Lake Country trustee Deborah Butler questioned why so many Mission elementary schools were prioritized for school expansion projects when the area will soon be opening the new Canyon Falls Middle School.
Those Mission schools include Dorothea Walker Elementary, $4.5 million to construct a five-classroom addition; Casorso Elementary, $6.5 million for six-classroom addition; KLO Middle, $8.5 million for eight-classroom addition; Anne McClymont Elementary, $6.5 million for five-classroom addition; Crawford Estates, $25 million for new elementary; and southwest Mission’s Thompson Flats neighbourhood, $4,650,000 for site acquisition and $25 million for new elementary.
Also projected as priorities for school expansion funding are Black Mountain Elementary, five classroom addition; site acquisition and construction of new elementary in UBC Okanagan area; and classroom additions for Dr. Knox Middle, Rose Valley Elementary and Hudson Road Elementary.
Also on the books are school replacements for Glenmore Elementary, George Pringle Elementary and Raymer Elementary.
“Is the new middle school not helping to relieve the pressure on schools in that area? What we have been told repeatedly as a board is that the greatest pressure point for enrolment right now is in Glenmore and I don’t see any priority given to that,” Butler said.
Staff pointed out that the site acquisition and construction of a new elementary school in the Wilden area, when approved by the ministry, will help address the Glenmore enrolment issue.
Van Aller noted one of the ministry funding factors working against schools like North Glenmore Elementary and Watson Road Elementary right now is an absence of portables.
“Those schools are reaching full capacity now but the ministry likes to see a period where portables are put into use before looking at new capital replacement projects. Schools already with portables put themselves ahead of those which don’t,” Van Aller said.
The committee adopted a resolution to defer the proposed capital plan spending for further debate at their next meeting June 20, and a decision will be presented to the board of education for final adoption June 27.
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