How Full is Too Full in District Schools?

Posted On Friday November 12, 2021

By Heather Grieve, Board Chair

November 10, 2021

On September 28, 2021, I was privileged to present to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.  I was honoured to represent the SD73 Board of Education and district community to highlight the immense challenges that we face within our district regarding our space crisis and lack of capital funding amidst rapid enrolment growth projections.

The presentations were brief, but we were each able to paint a picture of the issues that our districts were facing. I emphasized SD73’s current enrolment pressures— we are growing at a rate of one medium-size elementary school (250 students) each year and our available spaces do not serve our families in reasonably accessible areas in our district. Accessible areas are in rural areas which have available space, and our enrollment pressures are in Kamloops. Given this reality, we highlighted that catchment changes are our only strategy left, but not a solution. In making the catchment changes, we are temporarily solving our over-enrollment pressures and such changes are not favored by some, and rightfully so. 

We are quite simply asking for help.  We noted that there are no clear and defined criteria that stay the same year-to-year for how capital funding is allocated. How can we meet the requirements to get projects on our capital plan approved?  We asked for consistency and clarity. There appears to be no transparency when projects are approved provincially and as education providers in our province, we asked the question asked to us by our community, “How full is too full?” with respect to our schools.  The committee was advised that we require provincial support to provide the type of educational environment that our entire school community both need and deserve.  We have known for a long time that our district needs more schools, more classrooms, more capital funding, and more support from our provincial government to make this happen.  Our efforts have been recognized with one capital announcement, Valleyview and the replacement of Parkcrest Elementary School, which was destroyed by a fire. While appreciated, it will not come close to addressing our district needs.

During our consultation process for catchment changes the word “transparency” continually came up.  The question: How full is too full? needs to be answered in a clear, transparent way, one that will enable our Board to share those criteria with our community. Only then will we be positioned to walk alongside our community to meet this bar. Otherwise, how can we be transparent with our community? How can we provide information about our efforts to advocate for capital funding? and how can we assure our community that we are doing everything we can to create the best educational environment within our district? 

As a start, we can make our efforts visible and accessible.    

As a Board of Education and a District, we will continue to advocate for new schools, more funding, and bring attention to our current crisis.  We will continue to ask the Province, “How full is too full?” in our schools. 

This column appeared in Kamloops This Week: View from SD73 on November 10, 2021.

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