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Three Central Okanagan school projects get provincial funding

Province allocates more than $162 million to support three school projects
Administrative headquarters in Kelowna for Central Okanagan Public Schools.

The provincial government has responded with funding to the spiking student enrolment issues facing Central Okanagan Public Schools. 

Education and Child Care Minister Rachna Singh announced Thursday, June 13, more than $162 million in provincial funding to support three school projects in the Central Okanagan School District.

They include additional funding for the 1,200-seat new Westside secondary school at the repurposed George Pringle Elementary site, a two-storey addition to Hudson Road Elementary in West Kelowna and the purchase of land for a new elementary or middle school site in the north end university area of the city near UBC Okanagan. 

"Our need is immediate so it is great news for us to see the province come to the table with solutions...the government has recognized the need we face, with the growth that is happening and the land limitation challenges we face," said Kevin Kaardal, superintendent/CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools.

"Finding new sites for schools is challenging in our district with restrictions like the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) and our topography in general, so we know funding additions to our existing school sites will help."

Singh highlighted in her announcement the commitment the NDP provincial government has to provide students throughout B.C. with a quality education.

"We will continue or work together to make investments that provide the best learning experiences for students," Singh said. 

Construction is set to begin at the new George Pringle Secondary School this fall with the completion of the planning and design process. 

The school will include a neighbourhood learning centre and Indigenous learning space.

As much as $121 million is being provided by the province with an additional $3 million from the school district.

Kaardal noted inflation has driven up the new school costs during the planning process, but the province has stepped up with additional funding to offset inflationary costs. 

The extension at Hudson Road Elementary School will add 265 seats to the school with almost $23 million in provincial funding.

That project will feature nine classrooms, two kindergarten rooms, a multipurpose space, and improved student dropoff/pickup and play areas among other safety upgrades.

The school site purchase in the university area represents a $15 million funding commitment from the province.

These projects are in addition to the five prefabricated classrooms funded for North Glenmore Elementary School that will add 120 seats and a 12-classroom addition with 300 more seats at École Dr Knox Middle School.

Over the past six years, the Province has approved approximately $289 million to create more than 3,400 student seats in the Central Okanagan District.

This includes additional seats at H.S Grenda Middle School, prefabricated additions at Chief Tomat Elementary School and a land purchase for a new Wilden school.

Kaardal said the ministry recognizes that Central Okanagan along with Surrey and parts of Kamloops represent challenges of meeting population growth which are taxing existing school resources. 

"As a larger centre in the province, we are seeing population in-flow from immigration, migration from the Lower Mainland and just growth from our existing population," Kaardal said. 

"The government is very aware of what the needs are to meet growth across the province and knows where that growth is, which is here and the Lower Mainland."

Board of Education chair Lee-Ann Tiede echoed Kaardal's sentiments, citing the government's continued need to invest in education resources for the school district. 

"We look forward to continuing our work together to remedy our ongoing need for new spaces," Tiede said. 

Kaardal also noted the pre-fab classroom addition option for schools is a game changer in several ways - they can be built quickly, and are internally self-sustainable, equipped with washrooms and a better overall quality building alternative to portables.

"I would say our portables are very good but at the same time (pre-fab) building classrooms are even better," he said. 

The funding announcements, however, will offer little solace to Rutland parents who have long been waiting for an upgrade to the aging Rutland Middle School. 

"We are hopeful about the renovation and other additional funding for Rutland Middle going forward. The province is aware of how many portables are on site and that it remains a priority for us," Kaardal said. 

"We will continue to seek to invest in the school and improve it in increments so when funding to do the renovation does come forward, we will be in the best position to build a new, stellar school."



Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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