An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE BUILDING SPREE being promoted by School District 73 aims at addressing burgeoning school enrollment but there’s an elephant in the room.
The local district has a big list of high-profile projects such as the completed expansion at Valleyview secondary, and the replacement for Parkcrest elementary, which was destroyed by fire.
And there’s a long-standing plan to replace Kamloops secondary. There are also plans to replace a half dozen others.
Brand new schools on the horizon include Juniper West, Batchelor, Sun Peaks and a pair in Aberdeen. That’s an ambitious wish list considering the cost of building schools these days. The Parkcrest project is tagged at almost $35 million, roughly the same cost as the expansion at Valleyview secondary.
Here’s the rub. School district 73 enrollment is ever-changing due to shifts in how communities grow. In 2015, for example, it went down. Only two years later, it went up again.
Such ups and downs are the rule. Stuart Wood, Westsyde, Ralph Bell and George Slater elementaries have all been closed due to enrollment loss.
Westsyde and Ralph Bell re-opened after many years in mothballs. It’s doubtful Stuart Wood will ever be used as a school again but it’s likely a new downtown school will be needed at some point.
George Slater, on the other hand, was sold for a fraction of what it would cost to replace it now. And that’s the dilemma — the need for schools comes and goes.
It’s a huge cost to taxpayers. Maybe there’s another solution — movable schools. Portables have long been a fixture on school grounds across the country and they’re regarded as dark, depressing, leaking things that should be abandoned at the earliest opportunity.
Yet, innovations in some school jurisdictions are changing the lowly portable into pleasant, eco-friendly structures. Maybe it’s time for reconsideration of the never-ending quest for more and more schools, and to take a new look at portables in a friendlier light.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former TNRD director and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a recipient of the Jack Webster Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.