More portables added for new school year

By Tanya Cronin
September 11, 2018 - 4:33pm Updated: September 11, 2018 - 5:27pm

KAMLOOPS — They provide a temporary learning environment for students, where there is a shortage in classroom space.

Portables are becoming a common sight on school properties all across the province, and the Kamloops-Thompson School District is no different. With significant growth in some city neighbourhoods - and last year's court ruling on class size and composition - School District 73 has seen a 'spike' in student population. The increased number of students is putting pressure on schools, and many have been forced to install portable classrooms to accommodate the changes.

A new school year, a new crop of classmates, and the hustle and bustle of more than 14,000 students across school district 73. But for many, heading back to the classroom, means back to portables.

"We have as you can see behind me the addition of our 9th portable, and they're surrounded all along the outside of the building.," says Barb Hamblett, Valleview Secondary School Principal.

The Kamloops Thompson School District is scrambling to create enough space to teach a rapidly growing student population, and portables are fast springing up on city schoolyards. At Valleyview Secondary the pressure is on, the school running at 140% capacity. 

"We're just under 1000 kids in a school that was built for about 750 kids, so you can definitely feel that and we are up a little bit in enrollment and that has been the case for the last few years for sure," says Hamblett. "All of our kids now are sharing lockers with the exception of our grade 12's, we don't really have a space for kids to sit and eat their lunches, you'll see when kids are changing classes it's shoulder to shoulder, we are just right at the very max."

Bursting at the seams, Valleyview has added its ninth portable, and it sits in the very front of the school's entrance. Aesthetically pleasing - maybe not - but a necessity, becoming all too common district-wide. 

"Those numbers are approaching close to 40 portables across the district, not all of those are used for classes, but many are, but again we're seeing enrollment pressure along the South Shore, as well as Westmount where we have 5 portables," says Alison Sidow, School District 73 Superintendent.

Much like high schools, portable classrooms are accommodating an influx of students at the primary level as well. Not the district's first choice, but without significant government investment, it's the only way right now to keep up with the pace of growth.

"Our belief is students should be able to go to school in their local community, however the pressure is mounting," says Sidow.

"It is not a long term solution, portables don't last as long as regular bricks and mortar schools do, and we have some portables that are even getting beyond their own life and that's another issue too," says Hamblett.

Valleview Secondary is waiting patiently for a finalized project development report for a proposed $22-million expansion, to be approved by the Ministry of Education. Until then, portables will provide a quick fix where there is a shortage, and a temporary learning environment for a school hoping to one day get all of its students back under one roof.  

"The overcrowding issue continues to be a problem that's not going away, so despite the fact that we have great teachers, working with redesigned curriculum and everything is going really well inside the classrooms, there's just some things that can't be fixed without an addition," says Hamblett.  

Enrollment increases in Kamloops-Thompson School District