While declining birthrates are forcing school closures and teacher layoffs around the province, a neighbourhood in West Kelowna is bucking the trend.
Monday afternoon, parents, teachers and administrators in the Shannon Lake and Rose Valley neighbourhoods of West Kelowna learned the province will alot a portion of a new $353 million capital projects plan toward a new school for the area.
“There are school districts in our province that have experienced tremendous student enrolment growth in recent years, and are in need of funds to expand current schools or build new ones. That’s why we are taking action today,” Premier Christy Clark said at a press conference held in Surrey. “This investment will also create more jobs, which is great news for B.C. families.”
For the families in Rose Valley in particular, the announcement will also spell relief for a school campus described as “quite frankly at capacity” by the superintendent of schools Hugh Gloster.
“This is wonderful news and I think it’s a tribute to the hard work that’s been done by our board of education and local MLAs,” said Gloster.
Shannon Lake Elementary just opened an eight classroom edition, largely funded to make room for full-day kindergarten; but Rose Valley Elementary is surviving off portables with expectations both neighbourhoods will continue to grow.
A property on Rosewood Drive has already been purchased by the school district to build the new facility and board of education chairman Rolli Cacchioni said trustees want to strike a funding partnership with the District of West Kelowna to secure backing for community elements, like a classroom that might remain open on weekends for the sports teams making use of the fields.
Partnering with the community will be equally important in Kelowna where, according to Clark’s Monday announcement, an addition for Okanagan Mission Secondary School will also be built.
“Originally, when it was built, it was built for 500 students and it’s now over 1,000,” said Cacchioni.
The school’s expansion will likely include classroom space, a science lab and might also see a theatre added with community use worked into the schedule.
“It’s going to be a very good addition for our school and it’s just great news for the mission community,” said OKM principal Scott Mclean.
OKM currently has 1,065 students overflowing into portables placed around the main building footprint.
“We have tremendous growth in schools in the Mission but in particular here at OKM,” said Mclean, alluding to new developments in areas like Kettle Valley and Crawford.
The school district purchased a lot directly adjacent to the school a couple of years ago and Maclean said he believes planning for the addition will begin shortly.