Image: City of West Kelowna

West Kelowna Council “put over a barrel” by School District 23

Given too tight of a deadline and no option, Council opts to prioritize students

West Kelowna City Council called out School District 23 for backing them into a corner, with a tight deadline, to approve a bylaw amendment.

School District 23 has applied to change the current zoning bylaws in the shared parking lot of Mount Boucherie Secondary School, Mount Boucherie Community Centre, James Lind Arena and City Hall. The current bylaw requires five parking-stalls for each classroom as they move to quickly install three portables as a short term solution to a growing population in West Kelowna.

Related: Westside parents prepare response to grade reconfiguration

The three portables will be the first phase of a 10-year-program that will eventually add 17 portables to the school. The already busy parking lot has no room to grow to be in accordance with the current bylaw.

City Council claims it’s been given “not a lot of time for changes due to the deadline the applicant has set”, by the school district. It will take five to six weeks for the portables to be installed in time for classes to begin in September.

“This puts us up over a barrel in regards to September 2018, and that is too bad. I will support the idea of doing it for the year while looking for another long term solution,” Mayor Findlater said.

Related: SD 23 board chair addresses parent reconfiguration angst

Mayor and Council recognize that City Hall creates a lot of the traffic and parking issues in the community centre, however the prospect of moving off the site will take several years.

Findlater cites West Kelowna as being regarded as low priority by the school district, in favour of taking care of Kelowna instead.

“The Westside always seems to be last— we have had fantastic growth over the past seven or eight years here, and we have pointed that out to various school district officials— It is only now that they are coming to grips with it through a grade reconfiguration program,” Findlater said.

Related: Letter: Grade reconfiguration a short-sighted decision

The contentious word within the application that stood out to Coun. Bryden Winsby, who called the application “B.S.”, was the need to prove that there was enough growth in the city to require another secondary or primary school.

“The need has been here for some time, it’s not about to go away and quite frankly while it didn’t make my blood boil, it came close,” Coun. Winsby said. “I am not blaming the school district itself but it has created a problem that we have had to step in and solve—Yes, the portables are needed but why? Because somebody is too cheap to build the schools we need.”

The school district’s 10-year-projection advised staff that building a secondary or primary school is a top priority and the district has been in discussion with the Ministry of Education — securing funds is a hurdle yet to be tackled.

Related: School district plans continue for grade reconfiguration

“We have been feeling very disconnected from School District 23 and why are we not working together for these common goals, when talking to the Ministry for approval for funding a school, we should be doing that as a collective, not as silos,” Coun. Rosalind Neis said.

Council moved to approve the bylaw amendment to ensure a smooth transition for students and the three portables should be installed in time for September 2018.

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