The long-awaited approval of funding for a new Westside Secondary school finally came to fruition on Monday (Feb. 28).
The Ministry of Education has given the fiscal green light for the construction of a 1,200-seat secondary school at what will be the repurposed site of the present École George Pringle Elementary.
The province has allocated $102.7 million to build the new school with Central Okanagan Public Schools kicking in $3 million.
The new school will be a state-of-the-art facility both from an instructional technology and construction standpoint, outfitted with appropriate lab and trades shop spaces, three gymnasiums, two full-size sports fields, high-efficiency HVAC and lighting systems to address greenhouse gas reduction strategies and use of non-combustible building materials compatible with the climate change era.
Westside school trustee Chantelle Desrosiers said the building cost reflects the curriculum demands of a secondary school, which differ from elementary or even middle schools.
“The curriculum is far more specialized…with lab spaces, art spaces, trades learning spaces so that is a huge part of the overall cost,” Desrosiers said.
Moyra Baxter, Central Okanagan Board of Education chair, noted the school will address significant issues that are evident by the rising number of portables at Mount Boucherie Secondary in recent years.
“The entire community looks forward to providing input on how the new school can meet the needs of our students as well as serving as a community hub,” said Baxter.
The “community hub” aspect will be reflected with the inclusion of a neighbourhood learning centre that can be used for community programs such as child care, Indigenous or cultural services and children and family resources.
With the announcement coming on the Feb. 28, board-imposed deadline for adopting new catchment area changes for Westside schools, those changes will now fall into place beginning next fall.
With Pringle closing down for construction of the new high school, elementary students will be shifted to the reopening of Webber Road Elementary, and French Immersion students will move to either Glenrosa or Hudson Road elementary schools.
The opening of the new Westside Secondary is targeted for September 2027, with an optimistic hint of a sooner deadline.
“Our operations department is hitting the ground running,” said Desrosiers.
Since September 2017, the province has approved $153.5 million in the Central Okanagan School District with the new Westside high school, new H.S. Grenda Middle in Lake Country and land purchase for a new school site in Kelowna’s Wilden neighbourhood.
But the school district has already shifted attention to its next priority in response to spiking enrolment – a new high school for the Glenmore area.
“We are very appreciative for what we are getting but they tell us we are one of the fastest-growing metro areas in Canada and growing by more than an elementary school in population every year,” Desrosiers said.
Simon Adams, president of the Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council, said parents and the community are thrilled about the announcement of the new school funding.
“The Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council appreciates the government’s ongoing support to provide new student spaces throughout our community, which is the fastest-growing community in Canada,” Adams said.