SD73 officials say they've been shortchanged on capital funding

By Jill Sperling
January 13, 2017 - 5:34pm

KAMLOOPS — The Kamloops/Thompson School District is hoping to receive some much needed capital funding in order to replace or expand a number of its schools. 

With that goal in mind, a list has been compiled detailing how much capital spending each of the 60 school districts across the province has received. For the Kamloops-Thompson school district that spending doesn't quite match up with enrolment. 

The report heading for School District 73's Board of Trustees shows the District has the 13th highest enrolment in the province, but it falls closer to the bottom when it comes to capital funding. 

"We had seen a similar report when we were in negotiations for funding for the NorKam Trades and Technology Centre, so we knew it existed," said former SD73 board chair Denise Harper. "Around May of last year one of the trustees asked, and on their behalf as chair I asked for a copy of that report so we could see where we stood, and of course the results were stunning to us." 

The report is a compilation of numbers published by the Ministry of Education based on school years dating back to 2002. 

The Kamloops/Thompson School District is ranked 56th out of 60 school districts for capital funding per student.

"We are a district that is very creative," said current board chair Meghan Wade, "and we take very good care of our buildings, and we find different ways to be collaborative with people in the maintenance of them. So, I wasn't surprised when this came out because we have done so much internally."

However, with the school dictrict facing capacity issues and aging buildings, creative spending doesn't go far enough.

"We have an aging building portfolio, and with that obviously comes increased costs," Art McDonald, director of facilities and transportation, said. "We do get money from the ministry every year to complete capital upgrades but as our buildings get older, as the dollar goes down, as everything goes up in cost, the money isn't going as far as it used to."

Built in 1952, South Kamloops Secondary is a building in need of replacement. It's the number one priority outlined in the school district's capital plan. It's also one of the main reasons the report was compiled and presented to Kamloops-South Thompson MLA, Todd Stone. 

"In addition to the capacity challenges that we are now seeing in the schools because of the enrolment going up, we also know that a good number of the facilities in Kamloops are at an age where they're getting close to the end of their useful life, whether it's South Kamloops Secondary, or a number of elementary schools," Stone said. "So, we're going to continue to advocate very strongly to make sure that this district gets the capital that it needs in the years ahead."

Stone says years of declining enrolment caused many schools to shut down, and with fewer schools the district required less capital funding.

Now, that's starting to turn around. 

"We are seeing rising enrollment in our school district, we're seeing capacity challenges as a result of that, aging infrastructure on top of that," Stone said. "While the school district has done a great job keeping our schools safe and in good repair, there's no question that we are going to need to see more capital in our district and I intend on making that happen as soon as possible." 

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