There are many fiscal and social issues parents consider a clear and present danger to their child’s education in public schools.
But one issue that has a direct impact on many Central Okanagan Public Schools students but generates minimal outrage is the school district’s rising dependence on portables to create classroom space
As Moyra Baxter, chair of the Central Okanagan Board of Education, said at the school board meeting on Wednesday (April 27), the increasing reliance on portables and the drain it causes to the school district operating budget is something parents should get riled up about.
“The money for these portables comes out of our operating budget. So that is taking away money that could be made available for more teachers, for more programs, for more learning assistants,” Baxter said.
Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers, chair of the planning and facilities committee which makes recommendations on portable use to the board of education, said Mount Boucherie Secondary, with 21 portables to be on site for the 2022-23 school year, remains the school district’s prime example of an overcrowded school due to population growth and spiking enrolment.
Another example is Rutland Middle School, where the classroom space for 40 per cent of the students are in portables.
Besides the inconvenience of not being equipped with washrooms, Desrosiers points out the portables allow for more students than the school can normally accommodate, which in turn places pressure on a school’s resources to meet course demands.
“A gym is the size it is and an art studio is the size it is. You can’t make them bigger and there is only so much time that can be allotted for student courses,” she said.
Some relief is coming specifically for Mount Boucherie after the ministry of education signed off on capital funding for a new secondary school for the Westside, expected to open within the next five years.
But rising enrolment and portable issues exist throughout the district.
Since 2018, the school district has added 23 portables to its inventory and has funded $4.96 million for the purchase and moving of portables to accommodate enrolment growth.
Based on projections for September 2022 and the reopening of Ecole Bellevue Creek Elementary and Webber Road Elementary this fall, the school district will purchase two new portables, move 13 portables to different school sites and move two modulars to meet anticipated enrolment demand.
These moves and purchases are estimated to cost $2.5 million, money that Baxter cites could otherwise be spent on school programs.
The projected portable count for September 2022 will be 127 portables as classrooms, with projections for the 2023-24 school year showing the potential need to purchase a further 12 portables.
Schools in line for portable additions this fall include North Glenmore Elementary, Mount Boucherie Secondary, Shannon Lake Elementary, Webber Road Elementary, Ecole Bellevue Creek Elementary, Constable Neil Bruce Middle and Hudson Road Elementary.