Discussion around School District #83’s long-term facilities plan will continue at the May 19 board of trustees meeting. (File photo)

Options for Salmon Arm schools costly, funding for new capital unlikely

Discussion of School District #83 long-term facilities plan continues

Recent discussion of School District #83’s long-term facilities plan has yielded some possible answers for the future of schools in Enderby and Armstrong, and a wide range of possibilities for Salmon Arm schools.

At a committee of the whole meeting held on Monday, May 4, school trustees heard recommendations on the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District’s long-term facilities plan.

One aspect of the plan discussed was costs involved with purchasing the portable classrooms required to put some of the plan into action.

District leadership recommended to the trustees that things should remain status quo for now in Enderby.

“If space pressures continue we will have to revisit moving Grindrod Grade 7s to A.L. Fortune,” said Superintendent Peter Jory.

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The preferred plan for Armstrong is to maintain the current use of Len Wood Middle School. In Armstrong, students in Kindergarten to Grade 4 attend either Highland Park or Armstrong Elementary, and then move to the middle school for Grades 5-7 before going to Pleasant Valley Secondary.

In the light of COVID-19 and the financial implications it will have for the province, Jory commented there is a good possibility there will not be a lot, if any, money for new capital, so the district will likely be on its own to fund the changes.

According to a release from the district, the situation in Salmon Arm is more complicated and none of the scenarios proposed by district leadership is a magic solution. Jory stated the district’s senior leadership team is opposed to situations where students are spending only two years at a school before moving on. He emphasized that it is difficult for staff to build the relationships required to help students achieve their best outcomes in a model where they are moved between schools so often.

According to the district, one possible solution for Salmon Arm is to change its elementary schools to accommodate Grades K-6, and three secondary schools for Grades 7-12. This solution would cost $1.5 million in portables but, according to the district, it is less popular with stakeholders than other choices.

Another option would make elementary schools K-7 and create two secondary schools. Upfront costs for this option would be $2.75 million.

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Another option, changing Salmon Arm schools to K-6, Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12, would cost more than $5 million for portables in the first few years. An option proposed by district leadership is a hybrid; it would leave the K-5, K-8, and 6-8 schools as is, but make the Jackson and Sullivan campuses of Salmon Arm Secondary into separate Grade 9-12 schools.

It was recommended that things remain as they are in Sicamous and the South Shuswap.

At the meeting, trustees commented there are decisions regarding school facilities that need to be made immediately, but they also want more information on longer term possibilities for the 10 year facilities plan. Future plans might include a downtown elementary school in Salmon Arm, a new wing at Salmon Arm Secondary or a high school in Sorrento.

Discussion of the facilities plan will continue at the Board of Education meeting on May 19.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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