B.C.’s education minister has rebuffed another attempt by the Central Okanagan Board of Education to revive plans to replace Rutland Middle School.
Education Minister Rob Fleming cited the need to both respond to student population growth in many districts along with schools requiring upgrades under the Seismic Mitigation Program for placing demands on available capital investment in new schools.
Fleming noted since 2007, there have been 2,940 added or approved new student spaces in the Central Okanagan School District under six different projects with funding of $131.26 million.
“I know the replacement of Rutland Middle School has been a priority for the Central Okanagan Board of Education for several years now,” said Fleming in the letter.
“Every year school districts submit many requests from across the province for renovations and replacement schools, but the Ministry is required to prioritize these requests against approved capital budgets.
“At this time, a capital project at Rutland Middle School is not approved for funding.”
He also alluded to expanding school demands in the district for 2019-20, such as finding a new site for a new secondary school in West Kelowna.
The school trustees will address Fleming’s letter at Wednesday’s board meeting with a rebuttal letter recommended as a course of action highlighting several points.
Among them will be that RMS is an aging structure supporting significant student population growth reflected by the 11 portables that house 40 per cent of the school students on site; the continued repair an upgrade challenges to maintain a 70-year-old facility; and ongoing accessibility challenges for all students who attend the school.
The school is already in line for upgrades to the washrooms, roof and mechanical systems in the 2019-20 annual facilities grant submission to the ministry.
The parent advisory group for RMS has already stated its intent to campaign publicly for the ministry to replace the aging middle school, while the school board has acknowledged the ministry has more interest under current capital budget limitations to build new schools than replacing existing facilities that are considered structurally safe.
The board had also submitted a plan to renovate the existing Quigley Elementary as an alternative RMS replacement, relocating the elementary students to surrounding schools with enrolment capacity.
But the ministry rejected that idea last year, saying ministry capital spending policy is not to shut down existing schools.