As enrolment drops province-wide, the Kootenay Lake school district is looking for community feedback on how to proceed with their surplus facilities. District 8 has seen their student population drop from 6,600 students in 1996 to 4,709 this year, prompting discussion on the district’s long-term plans.
“The board is looking at a full review of all the facilities within the district, and possible scenarios they might contemplate. We need to assess how we can best use our spaces and resources to make sure they’re being used to support learning,” said superintendent Jeff Jones.
The district has 91,900 square metres of property, including 13 elementary schools, four secondary schools, three K-10 or K-12 schools, one middle school, three programs of distributed learning and 4 learning sites.
They also have six administration sites, seven closed sites and four sites with vacant land.
“The district recognizes that there are some challenges with our facilities and we need to attend to them,” said Jones, noting that it’s often difficult to sell school property.
Today the school board wraps up a series of seven meetings around the district aimed at educating the public on the district’s current status. Jones hopes these meetings will inspire the community to engage in the process and offer feedback.
“If there’s a school built to accommodate 200 students and for the last 10 years has only had 100, do we close off a wing? Do we knock off a wing? Do we renovate or rebuild? Right now the wisdom is ‘don’t hold on to surplus property,’ but we’re working really hard not to have preconceived ideas,” he said. “The gems are going to come from the people living in the community.”
Currently the utilization of school facilities based on the number of students they were designed for is 71 percent, down from 75 percent in 2011/12. That number is projected to rise back to 75 percent by 2023/24.
Currently the facilities being strained by growth are Winlaw and Blewett, while the most underused are in Kaslo/Crawford Bay.
The board is also looking at the condition of the buildings to ascertain what sort of upgrades or renovations will be necessary. They have rated each school according to a facility condition index. Crawford Bay and Salmo Secondary currently have the best scores, with Kaslo’s maintenance building coming third.
Both the Winlaw and Blewett schools have worrisome scores, and are in need of upgrades.
The school board hopes to complete the process and make their decisions by the end of March.
Information from the town hall meetings, including Power Point presentations, can be found at sd8.bc.ca under ‘Facilities Planning’.
Ideas and suggestions can be emailed to facilities(at)sd8.bc.ca. until January 5. You can also fax feedback to 250-352-6686 or send mail to 570 Johnstone Road, Nelson, V1L 6J2.