Trying to keep kids together

The Kamloops-Thompson School District (SD 73) says they can't share their tentative plan for Parkcrest Elementary just yet, but their goal is to have students in "some form of school" by Sept. 16.

The Brocklehurst elementary school was gutted by a fire last night. Kamloops Fire Rescue assistant chief Steve Robinson says crews' efforts were hampered by the fact that the school, built in the 1960s, didn't have a sprinkler system. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

Since then, the district has assembled a planning team and are working with the City of Kamloops to find spaces for over 340 students and 40 staff enrolled at the school. They will announce their plans early next week, but SD 73 superintendent Alison Sidow says they would like to avoid spreading kids around the district.

"We want to keep the students together, we want to keep the staff together," she says. "Parkcrest is a tight-knit family of staff and students and we want to ensure that they're there to support one another."

The district has also been in contact with the Ministry of Education and will be able to access funds and support from the province once they have a concrete plan.

"This has obviously raised Parkcrest to the top of our (capital needs) list," says school board chair Kathleen Karpuk. "We do not at this time, have any one building that can accommodate all of the students and staff from Parkcrest, which is part of our challenge for the next few years. We will definitely be focusing on getting Parkcrest built. We simply do not have the space in our district. Our schools are at capacity."

Rebuilding the school will cost anywhere from $18 to $20 million, secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch estimates. Karpuk says it would take two years at least, to rebuild the school.

This isn't an unprecedented situation in B.C., Sidow noted. In 2011, Southern Okanagan Secondary School was lost to a fire and Sidow plans to talk to that superintendent later to learn from the rebuilding experiences.

District staff also noted they were touched by how many people and organizations have reached out.

"The outpouring of support that we have received over the last day has been absolutely incredible," says Karpuk.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help teachers and staff that have lost everything they have accumulated over the many years of teaching.

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