More portables rising enrolment reality for Central Okanagan schools

School district to purchase six new portables for 2020-21 school year

More portables for Kelowna and West Kelowna schools will be ongoing reality for the Central Okanagan School District.

The proposal approved by the school board planning and facilities committee calls for six new portables and the movement of four existing ones within the school district this fall.

As of September 2019 the school district had 107 portables in use, and that is expected to rise to 119 as of September 2022.

For this fall, two new portables will be added each to Mount Boucherie Secondary and North Glenmore Elementary, and one each to Constable Neil Bruce Middle and Shannon Lake Elementary.

Two portables will also be transferred from Anne McClymont Primary to Springvalley Middle and from Anne McClymont Elementary to Dr. Knox Middle.

Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said more portables are not popular with parents but are a reality of a growing school district in need of new schools and more classroom space.

She said shifting enrolment pressure off elementary schools by shifting middle schools to Grades 6-8 and secondary schools to Grades 9-12 means shuffling that pressure on to middle and secondary schools.

READ: New portables for West Kelowna

READ: Rutland Middle School struggling with old facilities

Central Okanagan student registration is currently 105 per cent of capacity, faced with challenges of finding funding and sometimes available land for new schools while ministry of education funding is under pressure due to similar student enrolment increase problems in other provincial school districts.

“It is not the ideal situation but it is our reality for now,” she said, acknowledging that portables not having washrooms or access to running water does raise concerns.

Total student enrolment across the school district is predicted to rise from 22,666 currently to 23, 602 by 2022.

Enrolment at Kelowna Secondary School, which currently has eight portables, is expected to rise to more than 1,900 students by 2022 and there is no more space to accommodate more portable. It’s a similar story for Mount Boucherie Secondary where the West Kelowna secondary school already has nine portables and will add two more this fall.

The school district has hopes of funding being allocated this year to start on planning and construction of a new secondary school on the Westside while the Rutland Middle School upgrade remains a priority.

This week, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced $57 million in additions to the Surrey School District aimed to end that district’s reliance on portables, and Baxter is hopeful further announcements are in the works for other school districts in the weeks ahead.

She said the need for portables also arises from decision made in the early 2000s to sell school properties when enrolment was on a decline.

“I think it is safe to say now the school district won’t sell school sites anymore unless the whole country one day goes to online learning,” she said, citing the loss of Lakeview Heights and Westbank elementary properties as closed schools that would be useful to have today.

“One could argue with hindsight now it was short-term gain for long-term pain.”

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