As schools in the Central Okanagan get set to open their doors and welcome some 22,000 students into its classrooms for the start of another school year, an increase in students in several different areas of the district is forcing some students out of their catchment areas.
The school district is forecasting a slight increase in students across the board in the Central Okanagan, one of just a handful of districts in the province that has increasing enrollment.
However outgoing superintendent Hugh Gloster says while growth in numbers is better than declining enrollment, it is putting a strain on current facilities.
“We’re in an enviable position where we have pockets of real growth but where we are having trouble is accommodating everyone in some areas,” said Gloster, who will close out a 30-plus year career this fall with the Central Okanagan School District. “It’s a lot easier to face the pressure points and grow than to have to close schools.”
In the upper mission Chute Lake elementary will be full this year as will OKM, which is maxed out with nine portables operating at the high school. Kelowna Secondary is also at capacity with some 1,800 students. In West Kelowna schools are also close to capacity, even with the newly constructed Mar Jok school only going into its second year. And in Lake Country, close to 50 students will be attending elementary school outside of its catchment area with growth at Davidson Road elementary.
It’s a different story in Rutland, the first area in the school district that will move to a new grade configuration this year as elementary schools will move to Kindergarten to Grade 5, middle schools to Grade 6 to 8 and Rutland Senior to include Grade 9 to 12, becoming the first area in the district to move to the new configuration.
“We’re quite looking forward to the change (in grade configuration), in Rutland,” said Gloster. “It will change the complexion of things in some of the schools and will bolster the numbers in RSS and allow them to keep offering some of the great programs they have become known for.”
A replacement school for Rutland Middle School remains on the district’s priority list however Gloster said the district is now looking at different ways of replacing the school such as the potential for converting an existing school into a new middle school. That would allow the district to go after a new middle school in the upper mission near the Pond’s neighborhood.
“The Ponds is an are where we have already got the property identified,” said Gloster. “If we had a new middle school in the Mission that opened as Grade 6 to 8, that would pull some of the pressure off the elementary schools and create some space and also move OKM to the new Grade 9 to 12 configuration.”
In the distant future Gloster said there will also be a need for another high school in the core of the district, somewhere likely in Glenmore, however any new school is still years away.