Kamloops-Thompson Board Meets Minister of Education and Child Care to Share Priorities: An Urgent Need for More Space and A Passion for Co-creating More Inclusive Spaces

Posted On Tuesday January 24, 2023

Board Chair, Heather Grieve 

Our Board of Education was honoured to have Minister Singh join us on Sunday, January 22, 2023 to learn about our District priorities in connection to her mandate letter.

We appreciated how open and interested Minister Rachna Singh was to learn about our District and that she sought to have genuine conversation about the needs of our communities. We shared our urgent need for more space and our passion and dedication for co-creating inclusive spaces in our district.

An Urgent Need for More Space

We are looking forward to a positive working relationship with the Minister and ministry staff. In her mandate letter, Minister Singh aims to respond to the needs of fast-growing communities. To that end, we shared that we desperately need financial support in this February 2023 budget for a new school in Pineview Valley, and we emphasized:

  • Kamloops is in the top five fastest growing communities in BC.
  • May 19, 2021- Minister Whiteside announced support for a business case for Pineview Valley.
  • Since April 2021, we have completed 13 school catchment changes impacting 25% of our K-7 schools and re–opened a school in Southwest Kamloops.
  • McGowan Elementary School is at 160% utilization capacity with 4 portables. The 3 nearby schools that would be eligible to undergo a redistribution of students through a catchment change are at approximately 150% utilization capacity, on average, so they are overly full and relying on portables.
  • There is no room in nearby schools to do a catchment change, so our only option is a new school in Pineview Valley.

We also shared that we urgently need a small financial contribution ($7.5 M) in this February 2023 budget to purchase the site for the Secondary School in Aberdeen.

  • In 5 years, students in southwest Kamloops will need a secondary school.
  • The current high schools are anticipated to be at 146% capacity.
  • On April 11, 2022, we had written to Minister Whiteside to share that we have a one-time chance to buy the only existing land available in Aberdeen for a price of $6.1M, prior to December 31, 2022. We still have this option, but there is immense pressure on the owner to sell, and the cost of the land has increased.
  • Our Board has the required School Site Acquisition Charge system in place with the City of Kamloops. As of February 17, 2022, the School District had $10,948 in School Site Acquisition Charge funds to contribute to the purchase of the site. As of January 18, 2023, the school district has received approximately $163,000.
  • Securing this land is crucial to support our current and future secondary capacity needs in the southwest of Kamloops.

A Passion and Dedication to Co-creating Inclusive Spaces

We shared the connection of a district priority to the Ministers’ mandate letter by declaring our passion for and dedication to co-creating inclusive spaces by working directly with students.  The connection to Minister Singh’s mandate letter: She aims to work with all staff, Boards of Education, teachers, parents, students, and other stakeholders to identify and address issues of racism in our education sector.

The purpose of Minister Singh’s visit was to launch the province’s K-12 anti-racism action plan during the first Student Equity Council Summit held at the Henry Grube Centre where 100+ students co-developed an SD73 K-12 Anti-racism action plan.

To provide a backdrop for her to understand why anti-racism work is so important in our district, we focused on our Cultural and Identity Development Priority and how it developed through consultation with students. Last year, while developing our District Strategic Plan, we learned through consultation with 2000+ students and staff that individuals experience barriers to feeling safe and included in our schools. During consultation, students shared examples of discrimination, harassment, and racism. They said that their dream would be “to have every person feel proud of who they are- in all aspects of their identities such as their race, colour, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.” Upon hearing these stories, our Board articulated the Cultural and Identity Development Priority- to make it a goal that every learner will feel safe and thrive personally and culturally. To achieve this goal, we knew that the best starting place was to understand learners’ lived experiences of racism, discrimination, sexism, harassment, and homophobia.

In this first year of our new District Strategic Plan, we are proud of our Inclusive Education team under the leadership of Assistant Superintendent Mochikas who has created student groups to bring students together to identify barriers to feeling safe in school and to act on them. As we identify and act on lessons learned from the lived experiences of our students, I am confident that we will create an action plan that enables us to make safe, inclusive, welcoming spaces for all of our students and staff. As a Board, we see that human rights education is central to ensuring equity where we can identify systemic barriers to students feeling safe and acting on them.

To finish her time in Kamloops, Minister Singh chose to visit Valleyview to see the new extension as her final stop before boarding her plane to return home on January 23, 2023. Her twenty-four visit was rich with sharing, learning, and seeing the benefits of working together towards more new spaces and more inclusive spaces. We enjoyed our visit with Minister Singh, and we truly appreciated that she made our district her first stop in her new role as the Minister of Education and Child Care.

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