More portable classrooms may be inevitable at Salmon Arm schools, at least in the short term as School District 83 juggles the education needs of a growing student population.
A public information session at Ranchero Elementary on Tuesday, Feb. 4, gave parents, teachers and district board members the chance to learn of grade layout options for Salmon Arm and area schools in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District’s long-range facilities plan.
If accepted by the Ministry of Education, the plan could lead to substantial capital funding for large scale upgrades, wing additions to schools as well as new schools.
The 10-year facilities plan is currently in its consultation phase which runs from January to February with further design conversations from April to May. Ideally, the district will submit the plan to the ministry on June 30 along with its five-year capital plan.
Superintendent of schools Peter Jory led the Feb. 4 presentation, going over various graphs showing areas in the school district with imminent overflows of students, as well as schools operating at comfortable capacities. Jory explained grade layout options developed by a contractor commissioned to work on the plan by the district.
There are four options proposed for the Salmon Arm zone, each with modifications to the current layout and subject to change.
Option 1 is relatively status quo, except for a reverting South Canoe to kindergarten to Grade 5 and sending Grade 6 and 7 students to Shuswap Middle School.
Option 2 looks at changing Salmon Arm elementary schools to kindergarten to Grade 6 and making the middle school and both Salmon Arm Secondary campuses grades 7 to 12. Grade changes would be considered for kindergarten to Grade 8 elementary-middle feeder schools.
Option 3 involves making the middle school kindergarten to Grade 7, the SAS campuses would be grades 8 to 12.
Option 4 would make the middle school grades 7 to 9. The Jackson campus would also become a Grade 7 to 9 middle school, the Sullivan campus grades 10 to 12 and elementary schools kindergarten to Grade 6.
“It is important to know that information that comes to the trustees through this process, if it makes sense and if it has real potential, it’s going to get included in the final choices,” Jory said. “You’re not going to be constrained to just what we were thinking about three months ago. It’s always moving.”
Charts displaying timelines for each of the suggested options were shown during the session, each with their own challenges.
“None of those options give us enough space in the Salmon Arm area on their own,” Jory continued. “All of them require some kind of additional space.”
“Hopefully, we would get in line for significant capital dollars, be able to maybe add space, renovate; a new building would be amazing. Until we get to that point though we are going to be dealing with portables.”
Portable classrooms were deemed a likely, temporary solution to be implemented in the event of student overflow or displacement caused by construction. Portables cost between $150,000 and $250,000 each.
Jory went on to say that if the district gets approved for the kind of spending they are after, it will be at least five to six years until shovels are in the ground and the buildings are usable.
Some teachers came to the meeting armed with studies backing up concerns over the number of transitions students experience when moving from elementary to middle to high schools. Later in the same meeting, a show of hands appeared to indicate the majority of parents, teachers and board members were in favour of keeping as many kindergarten to Grade 8 schools as possible.