Keeping Shuswap Middle School as is and having two campuses for students in Grades 9 to 12 are elements of an option proposed for Salmon Arm largely favoured by School District 83 trustees.
At their April 1 committee of the whole meeting, SD83 trustees discussed how to proceed with the school district’s Long Range Facilities Plan. In the process, trustees indicated which of the two remaining proposed options they were leaning towards. Most were in favour of option E5, in which Shuswap Middle School (SMS) continues with Grades 6 to 8, while the Salmon Arm Secondary Jackson campus takes on Grades 9-12, same as the Sullivan campus. With this option, all elementary schools in the city’s jurisdiction become K-5. School district staff have noted this option does not alleviate the need for space already at the middle school. Furthermore, elementary enrolment would also exceed capacity and would, in the future, necessitate additions or a new school.
Salmon Arm trustee Marianne VanBuskirk said that if she had to vote right now, it would be for E5. This, she explained, was based on feedback received from parents who stressed the Grade 9-12 schools would foster a greater sense of belonging for students while being the least disruptive. One concern some parents had with this option pertained to the Jackson building itself, and how it was “every student and family’s dream is to finish or graduate from the Sullivan building.” To this, VanBuskirk commented, “It’s really our hardworking staff and students who make the school and create the culture.”
“If we can try to make the facilities somewhat equitable… then I think the second option, E5, will be more favourable.”
Marty Gibbons, trustee for Columbia Shuswap Regional District areas C and F (South and North Shuswap), was the lone voice in favour of option E4. With this, SMS would become a Grade 7-9 school, instead of 6-8, and Jackson would become a middle school, also Grades 7-9. Existing elementaries would become K-6, and Sullivan would be the only campus for Grades 10-12. This option would require significant changes for nine schools. Having to accommodate 260 more Grade 10 students, Sullivan would exceed capacity and additional portables would be required.
Gibbons also spoke in favour of another consideration in the long-rang facilities plan: the construction of a new school for Grades 8 to 12 in Sorrento. This, he explained, would alleviate pressure on the Sullivan campus.
Other trustees also spoke in favour of the new Sorrento school. However, Superintendent Peter Jory cautioned it is unlikely it would be constructed within the next five years.
“I love the idea of the Sorrento school, it could solve a whole bunch of problems, and if the area continues to grow as projected… there’s a case to be made there,” said Jory. “But you can’t expect the government to come up with that funding and get shovels in the ground and the building built in a time frame that’s going to help solve the problems that we have facing us in the next five years.”
Trustees did agree to pursue capital funding for a downtown Salmon Arm elementary school, as well as for the Sorrento high school, as part of the plan. A motion for next steps for the Long Range Facilities Plan will be brought forward to either the April or May Board of Education meeting.
“We did a good job in consulting,” commented committee vice chair and Armstrong/Spallumcheen/Area D Trustee Tennile Lachmuth. “Now I think we need to make a decision.”
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