Central Okangan School District scales back Rutland Middle School plan

Scaled back RMS plan

After nearly 20 years of trying to secure provincial funding to build a replacement for the aging Rutland Middle School in Kelowna, the Central Okanagan School District is changing its plans.

The school district is now pitching a scaled-back plan to upgrade the existing school and expand it with an addition, instead of replacing it with a new school building.

The board of education’s top priority for replacement since the early 2000s, the existing school is now described as “structurally solid” and offering an opportunity – with the upgrade and addition – to create what the district says will be modern, safe and accessible learning spaces.

But the growing student body at the school has required the use of a more portable classrooms and the school district wants to remove them and return the land they sit on to playing fields that both students and the community can use.

The board of education will be given an update on the new plan on June 7 as part of its discussion of the district’s latest overall five-year capital plan.

The school district hopes its new approach can capitalize on the provincial government’s move to prioritize funding to reduce reliance on portable classrooms at schools across the province.

It says upgrading the school and expanding it with an addition would increase building capacity to accommodate future students, as well as improve safety and accessibility for current students. The proposed work would also upgrade the building envelope, the mechanical systems and improve energy efficiency, as well as accessibility. Students would be educated in “purpose-built” spaces within the school, says the district.

Rutland Middle School has been the top capital priority for the district for more than 15 years and is part of a long wish list of additional schools, expansions and replacements it is seeking provincial funding for.

Serving Canada’s fastest-growing region, the school district has seen increased dependence on portable classrooms at its schools and last month announced it would have to add more portable classrooms at Mt. Boucherie Secondary, Chief Tomat Elementary and Shannon Lake Elementary in West Kelowna, as well move portables to Bellevue Creek and Watson Road elementary school in Kelowna from Dorothea Walker and Anne McClymont elementaries to the meet growing demand.

The school district is currently operating at 106% capacity. By 2024, it is expected that 33 of the 47 schools in the district will be operating over capacity. It is the fifth largest school district in B.C., with a student population of approximately 24,000 students.

In December, local MLA Norm Letnick said he again lobbied B.C.’s new education minister for funding for a replacement of Rutland Middle School, the continuation of an ongoing lobbying effort he started years earlier with previous education ministers.

In December, Letnick said the need to replace Rutland Middle School was urgent.

“It's not accessible, you also have issues with washrooms, you have issues with the lockers. If you compare the school to what you see at some of the other new schools that we've been able to build over the last few years here in the Okanagan, it's just past its best-before-date,” he said.

The previous plan to replace Rutland Middle School on the Quigley Elementary property estimated the cost at roughly $50 million.

The cost of the new scaled-back plan to address the need at Rutland Middle School was not immediately available.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Kaardal was not available to comment on the new Rutland Middle School plan Friday afternoon.

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