The reopening of Bellevue Creek Elementary is a key element for the school district in finding solutions to the exploding enrolment growth at Okanagan Mission catchment area schools.
Currently, the three Mission elementary schools are at 129 per cent utilization, and equipped with nine portables, while Canyon Falls Middle is at 96 per cent capacity without the ability for adding portables due to site constraints.
As for the Bellevue Creek Elementary building, which has been leased out to a childcare service provider since the school was closed, it has 12 classrooms and can accommodate more than 270 students.
But there are three options on how to best utilize Bellevue Creek and the other existing schools which the school district is looking for feedback on from local parents.
A public drop-in engagement meeting is planned for Monday, Nov. 22, 5 to 7 p.m., at the Okanagan Mission Secondary gold gym, to present the options and generate followup response.
Speaking at the planning and facilities committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 16), Okanagan Public Schools secretary-treasurer Ryan Stierman walked the committee through the pros and cons of each option.
Option #1 calls for single track French Immersion at École Dorothea Walker Elementary, with the English program students moved to Bellevue Creek Elementary.
Ecole Dorothea Walker would be the only elementary FI school in the Mission area, with students advancing to KLO Middle and then Okanagan Mission Secondary.
The Ponds and Crawford Estates students are moved into Bellevue Creek’s catchment area, while the area between Barnaby and Frost roads would be moved into the Anne McClymont Elementary catchment.
Except for the English students, under this option all existing students can remain at their current schools and be exempt from displacement due to catchment changes.
Option #2 would see a dual track English/FI program for both Anne McClymont Elementary and École Dorothea Walker Elementary, which would ultimately see the displacement of 306 students to new catchment schools for 2022-23 school year.
Stierman said this proposal is the most disruptive for students of the three options being presented to parents.
French Immersion elementary catchment changes would see Chute Lake Elementary and Anne McClymont in one school, and Bellevue Creek and Dorothea Walker in another.
The Ponds would be moved from the Anne McClymont catchment area to that of Bellevue Creek Elementary, while Crawford Estates students would be directed to Dorothea Walker Elementary rather than Ann McClymont Elementary.
Students from the area between Barnaby and Frost roads would be moved to Anne McClymont Elementary.
Option #3 calls for English/French Immersion primary/intermediate programs at both Bellevue Creek Elementary, for kindergarten to Grade 2, and École Dorothea Walker Elementary, for Grades 3-6.
Under this proposal, all Mission students would remain at their current catchment schools, except for K-2 students redirected from École Dorothea Walker Elementary to Bellevue Creek Elementary.
While the three options are related to immediate enrolment pressure demands, Stierman added another longer term issue facing the board of education involves Canyon Falls Middle School, which opened in September 2019.
He noted the school one sports field is experiencing significant wear and tear due to usage, and adding more students will only exacerbate that problem.
A portion of the school is also being leased by the City of Kelowna as a Neighbourhood Centre of Learning, an agreement that expires June 30, 2022.
The learning centre occupies our classroom spaces which could accommodate 112 additional students, while renewal of the joint agreement with the city could include use of the neighbouring city sports field for school use.
“Right now the only available land in the Okanagan Mission catchment for a new elementary or middle school is in the Crawford Estates neighbourhood,” said Stierman.
“That raises an issue of having two middle schools potentially in the southern corner of the city, something the board of education may have to address down the road. “
Stierman said that situation illustrates the importance of the proposed Glenmore Secondary School to help alleviate the enrolment pressure on the Okanagan Mission school zone.
Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter added a note of caution about student displacement, saying while the school district is committed to doing everything it can to minimize disruption with catchment area changes, it can’t offer absolute guarantees as funding circumstances, particularly on the provincial level, can change.
“I feel it is important for families to understand what they may be facing going forward,” Baxter said.
For instance, similar discussions related to catchment area changes on the Westside are largely predicated around the construction of the new Westside Secondary School, which has been approved in principle by the ministry of education but still awaits the funding being put in place to start construction.
“If the construction of the new (Westside Secondary) school is delayed for any reason, that will mean a significant change from what is being discussed for changes relating to the Westside, ” said trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, chair of the planning and facilities committee.