The 2022-23 school year for Central Okanagan Public Schools has started off with a frustrating statistic for the school board – there are now 129 portables in use across the school district.
Since 2018, the school district has added more than 20 portables to Central Okanagan school sites at a funding cost now beyond $5 million to accommodate enrolment growth, a cost that is absorbed from the school district’s operational budget.
For Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter, that is a scenario that the ministry of education needs to address.
She brought the issue to public attention earlier this year in April and raised it again at the planning and facilities committee meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 7).
Baxter urged the committee to recommend the school board approve at its Sept. 14 meeting to send another letter to the ministry voicing its frustration with the current portable funding arrangement.
“This is just unacceptable, ” Baxter said.
Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, acknowledged the current strain on portable funding is “inequitable” for the school district with enrolment currently continuing to escalate from year to year.
“It is a (financial) hardship the school district is not able to continue to bear,” he said.
With the cost to purchase and set up a new portable at $350,000, the school district was able to secure used portables from Quesnel and Armstrong schools to help defer the potential cost, said Rob Drew, director of operations for the school district.
While the purchase cost is less, Drew said older portables require more maintenance prep to get them transferred and ready for use at a school site.
Portable installations were carried this summer at Constable Neil Bruce Middle (two), Hudson Road Elementary (three), Mount Boucherie Secondary (two), North Glenmore Elementary (two), Shannon Lake Elementary (one), Watson Road Elementary (one) and Webber Road Elementary (four).
Along with portable additions, school district operations staff were also busy this summer on the repurpose efforts to bring two Webber Road and Bellevue Creek elementary schools back online for classes this fall, and to begin the construction repurposing of the former George Pringle elementary to a second Westside secondary school, a project with a four to five year projection to complete.
Kaardal noted the monumental effort of staff to get the work done and overcome some adversity to largely meet the deadline of classes returning on Tuesday.
“It was truly a Herculean effort to overcome some of the challenges our staff faced,” Kaardal said, noting issues as permit approvals, supply chain issues and scheduling with other partners such as BC Hydro to get the work done.