Kamloops-Thompson Board of Education collaborates to advocate for capital priorities

School district priorities

As many Kamloops-Thompson school district families witnessed while watching the regular public board of education meeting on Feb. 12, the board received an annual 2023 Long Range Facilities Plan that paints the pathway for capital advocacy with the community, an advocacy priority of the board (See our 2023-2024 Governance Framework and Work Plan and the board’s capital projects here).

Our current enrolment of approximately 16,000 students will continue to increase to between 17,000 and 17,4000 students over the next 10 years, an increase of 150 students per year. Approximately 8% (or 1,200 students) learn outside of the core of the school, in portables. Fifty portables are attached to 17 schools, which is 35% of our Kamloops schools.

Portable education means students have less accessible space to learn in small groups or one-on-one or to relocate to a sensory space to decompress. This separation means students and staff in portables have reduced ease of access to multi-purpose rooms, the gym, music, fine arts and science equipment. It also means social separation throughout the day.

These educational implications are most concerning for the board as we strive for enacting core value commitments of relationships and connections, well-being, equity, and sustainability.

Portables are required to manage enrolment growth on a temporary basis Yet, they have become a long-term solution while waiting for new schools.

SD73 spent approximately $6.372 million between 2018-2023 on portables (purchasing, installing, servicing, maintaining and moving them). Because we do not receive funding for portables (purchasing, moving, installing and maintaining), it is a drain on our operating budget which directly negatively impacts all students.

The board met with local MLAs, Todd Stone, Peter Milobar, and Jackie Tegart on Jan. 23 to review the district’s capital needs, budget pressures and to discuss emerging issues of importance. (You can access our memo about that discussion here.)

The board also met with City of Kamloops officials on Feb. 15. At both meetings, capital priorities were explained.

I will provide a summary of a few highlights of those conversations:

• Batchelor Heights: Advocacy to expedite Crown Grant application: On Feb. 4, 2023, I wrote a letter on behalf of the board to thank Gord Humphrey for expediting the Crown grant application locally. By Nov. 2023, the District was given information that the Crown grant application is still under review in Victoria.

(Current B.C. Land, Water and Resource Stewardship Minister, and former municipal affairs minister) Nathan Cullen was assigned the task of reorganizing what was officially known as the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development into two government departments, which has slowed Crown grant approvals.

On Dec. 13, 2023, the board sent a letter to Cullen asking him to expedite the Crown grant application

and cited the previous promise to expedite it. We asked Milobar, Stone, and Tegert to support our request because, without it, we are not eligible for funding support because we do not own the land.

• Aberdeen Site: Advocacy to secure $7.5 million to purchase the land. In five years, students in southwest Kamloops will need a secondary school.

Current secondary schools are projected to be at 146% capacity. On April 11, 2022, the board wrote to then education minister Jennifer Whiteside asking for support to purchase land for the Aberdeen secondary school for a price of $6.1 million prior to Dec. 31, 2022. As of Jan. 18, 2023, the board received School Site Acquisition Charge funds—approximately $163,000—to contribute to the purchase of the land.

• April 18, 2023 and July 24, 2023: The board advocated again to the Ministry of Education and Child Care, and by then the price of the land was $7.5 million. We highlighted how urgent the funding was in the upcoming Feb. 2024 budget.

• Sun Peaks: Advocacy for funding support for its “school of portables”: Sun Peaks is awaiting a new school and the school is currently all portables in three different locations within the municipality. They have no multi-purpose rooms or common gathering spaces, and staff are required to travel between the three locations. To integrate Grade 8 and 9 in 2020, the board purchased the portable ($136,000) for Grade 8-9 at P2, rented a room in the conference centre ($74,000) for Grades 4 to 7 due to enrolment growth and purchased two portables and site works ($1.9 million) to go to P5 (Grades 4 to 7). The maintenance of the portables is also our requirement at $25,000 per year.

At the British Columbia Trustees’ Association conference last year, there was a motion supported by the annual general assembly to advocate to the Ministry of Education and Child Care to support costs of portables and we continue to advocate for that priority.

• Playgrounds: Advocacy for new funding to make existing playgrounds accessible: Existing playgrounds do not have the same, or any, accessible equipment as a new playground would have. We have multiple requests for adding accessible equipment to existing playgrounds but we do not have the funds to meet all the requests. This means children who deserve to be able to swing, run, jump and play on existing playgrounds may not have the equipment to do so. The board will bring forward this motion at the British Columbia School Trustees’ Association 2024 annual general meeting.

The board appreciates the collaborative efforts of our partners to advocate for capital priorities of the board, which you can find here, and to continue to support our long-range facilities plans, accessible here.

Join the journey to advocate with us by going to sd73.bc.ca—Board of Education— and scroll down to “Get Involved.” Go to “Support the Board” to share your voice for joint advocacy.

Heather Grieve is chairperson the Kamloops-Thompson Board of Education.

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