An expansion to Blewett Elementary meant to relieve overcrowding won’t go ahead after the plan was denied provincial funding.
School District 8 had submitted a $5-million plan to the Ministry of Education to add 112 seats, or four classes, to the school as part of the district’s five-year capital budget.
But in a letter dated March 25, the ministry denied the plan based on Blewett’s 10-year enrolment projections.
“The Ministry now recognizes that the school’s existing capacity meets the requirement for current and future enrolment and has made the decision to remove support for this project.”
Built in 1962, Blewett Elementary currently has 158 students, or 49 more than its stated operating capacity. It’s projected to have 143 students next year.
School District 8 secretary-treasurer Michael McLellan said the original proposal had been sent to the ministry based on outdated projections. New stats, he said, show the school will remain overcapacity for the next few years before tapering off.
McLellan added the district may also consider other solutions to take pressure off Blewett.
“Blewett already provides great learning environments for our students,” he said. “However, the board will look at all options that are going to work best for all students and stakeholders.”
The district has recently made several changes to address overcrowding at its schools.
In December, trustees voted to move Grade 9 students from L.V. Rogers to Trafalgar Middle School beginning in September 2021 to relieve future pressure on Nelson’s only high school.
Then in January, the district agreed to a plan that would expand Winlaw Elementary with the addition of a 1,500 square foot modular unit.
The plan for Blewett would have also expanded the gym and administration area. But Blewett’s expansion, McLellan said, doesn’t fit with the ministry’s current priorities, which include a focus on capacity issues at schools in the Lower Mainland.
“We had actually proposed a scaled down project to the ministry, but even in a scaled down, much lower cost proposal we still didn’t meet the criteria to be awarded funding and continue with the process.”
The district still received $1.634 million in funding for several capital projects. They include: a new HVAC system for Mount Sentinel Secondary ($244,000); mechanical upgrades to South Nelson Elementary ($850,000); electrical system upgrades to Trafalgar Middle School ($400,000); and a new bus ($140,000).