Overcrowded enrolment at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary School in West Kelowna is pressing the need for a new secondary school to be built on the Westside, as outlined in the school district's updated Long Term Facilities Plan. (Barry Gerding - Black Press Media)

Central Okanagan school facility plan addresses challenges

Rising enrolment reflected in Long Term Facilities Plan proposal for school district

Construction of a new Westside secondary school and reopening Bellevue Creek Elementary in the Mission are two key elements of the updated Long Term Facilities Plan (LTFP) proposed for Central Okanagan Public Schools.

The draft LTFP was presented to the school district planning and facilities committee on Wednesday (May 5) and will undergo further public consultation and input until May 19 before coming to the school board for final adoption in June.

Ryan Stierman, secretary-treasurer/CFO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, said the LTFP represents the changing enrolment landscape of the school district, from in-area migration shifts to the overall growth and increased densification in some areas such Kelowna’s downtown core.

Stierman noted some of the issues outlined in the plan — reducing enrolment with program shifts at Ecole Kelowna Secondary and introduction of French Immersion at the new H.S. Grenda Middle School opening in September in Lake Country — have already been addressed by school trustees – the one exception being the transfer of KSS French Immersion students from the Westside to Mount Boucherie Secondary in 2022 which is still under review.

While the school district awaits provincial capital spending priorities for the ministry of education to be announced shortly, a public advocacy effort to enlist the support of local education stakeholders and partners has already been launched with seven specific capital projects identified as urgent priorities.

A school district news release cites a complete catchment review of Westside schools and an elementary catchment review of Mission area schools as important areas the LTFP has addressed.

Stierman said a lynchpin for resolving any Westside school catchment shakeup will be the go-ahead to build a new secondary school.

“Finalizing that project is holding up approval for other emergent project needs,” Stierman said.

The province last year set the new Westside school as the number one capital spending priority, approving the land acquisition search for a school site.

While that process is ongoing, the school district is hopeful funding approval to proceed with construction will come forward from the province this spring.

In the Mission, the fastest growing area in Kelowna from 2005 to 2014, the school district has opened a new elementary school, middle school and an addition to Okanagan Mission Secondary to deal with the enrolment influx.

Overall enrolment for the area has averaged a 2.36 per cent increase over the last three years and projections call for an additional 1.3 per cent for the next three years.

Along with undertaking a catchment boundary review for a reopened and refurbished Bellevue Creek Elementary, also under review would be the creation of a single-track French Immersion program at Ecole Dorothea Walker Elementary.

READ MORE: Glenmore parents push for new secondary school

READ MORE: Engaging public advocacy to counter enrolment crisis

Stierman said the school district currently leases Bellevue to Kelowna’s Willow Park Church, an exception to the school board’s policy back in the early 2000s deciding to sell off Westbank Elementary, Lakeview Heights Elementary and what is now the Martin Education Centre in downtown Kelowna.

Stierman said the school district also recognizes the impact of development densification, which at some point will place a need to locate another elementary school somewhere within Kelowna’s downtown core.

“We definitely recognize the densification shift, and with density, typically when growth is occurring in larger subdivisions, a lot of times land is set aside for future school sites but with densification, those projects don’t have any similar land requirements,” Stierman said.

Within the Central Okanagan School District, land acquisition for new schools can prove challenging, as has been the case in seeking a Rutland Middle School replacement site.

The public can view the LTFP document online and can provide survey feedback.