École Dr. Knox Middle School is now being viewed as the eventual next secondary school site in Kelowna.
That revelation came up at the Central Okanagan Public Schools planning and facilities committee meeting on Wednesday, in response to a question from Susan Bauhart, president of the Central Okanagan Teachers Association, during debate about the proposed Five Year Capital Plan for the school district.
Bauhart said her understanding was a new secondary school at the school district-owned Apple Bowl site was a top priority, but noted it doesn’t appear on the capital plan submission.
“I was just curious as to why that was no longer on the list,” said Bauhart.
Rob Drew, school district director of operations, responded it was not on the list because the ministry of education and childcare had approved funding for a conceptual design plan for a new school on the site earlier this year, setting in motion the pathway towards eventually building a new school.
However, Drew added that initial projections have concluded the site is better suited for a 600-800 student middle school rather than a secondary school, which has caused a shift to the concept of repurposing Dr. Knox Middle as a better secondary school option from both a school site size and geographic location.
The proposed Five Year Capital Plan has also identified a new middle school for the Wilden area as the top new school capital funding priority.
Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, chair of the planning and facilities committee, told Black Press a plan to seek funding for two middle schools over the next five years is a reflection of the 132 per cent enrolment status currently for schools along the Glenmore corridor, and the city’s population expected to continue rising.
At some point, Desrosiers said, to make the repurpose work, Dr. Knox Middle would require some updates, most notably in addition of lab class resources.
The school just recently saw the completion of a building upgrade for its current middle school status.
That revelation came amidst a lengthy debate about the capital plan status of Rutland Middle School, being switched from a school replacement to school addition category.
Kaylyn Martin, president of the RMS parent advisory council, said she has heard disappointment from RMS parents about the change in capital spending designation since it was publicized in the media last week.
Martin said parents have been waiting for 20 years to see Rutland Middle replaced with a new school, feeling their sense of collective urgency is continually being overlooked at the ministry of education and childcare.
“As a parent I am frustrated,” Martin said. “I am a grad of that school and now my kids are going to that same school and nothing has changed.”
Reg Volk, a retired teacher, also spoke at the meeting about why Rutland is constantly overlooked, citing the difficulty in getting land in the Agricultural Land Reserve released to serve as a school site, given finding a site for a new Rutland Middle has been a challenge for the school district over the last two decades.
“It doesn’t seem to be a problem getting land out of the ALR for an industrial or (residential) development but we can’t seem to get a school site in Rutland,” Volk said.
“They seem to be able to build these Taj Mahals in the Mission. Why can’t we get a new school in Rutland?”
He suggested the school board could be more vocal in the community about replacing RMS, while also noting local MLAs Norm Letnick and Renee Merrifield should be doing the same in Victoria and the absence of any vocal support from Kelowna City Hall.
Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO, said RMS has been front and centre for school district school capital funding for the last two decades.
“But it hasn’t been working so we think this change of capital classification we think will present a better opportunity to get funding,” he said.