Jun 23, 2009


Up to 11 elementary schools and two high schools could be closed as soon as the 2010-2011 school year as part of a total Kamloops-Thompson school district overhaul.

It was standing room only as the 50 recommendations were made in the reconfiguration report presented at Monday night’s board of education meeting in Kamloops.

Board chairman Ken Christian said it was the most significant report he has seen in his 16 years on the board.

“It speaks to the very fabric of this school district and it affects virtually the entire district,” Christian said, adding area mayors and MLAs have been sent copies of the report.

“It’s recommending massive school closures, consolidations and reconfigurations.”

In addition to closing one-third of the district’s elementary schools and one high school on the North and South shores, other proposals include making South Sa-Hali and Lloyd George elementary schools solely French immersion, switching Logan Lake to a kindergarten to Grade 10 school, reconfiguring Beattie School of the Arts secondary to a grades 8 to 10 junior high school and separating high schools into grades 8 to 10 and grades 11 to 12 models.

Under the junior and senior high-school model, NorKam and South Kamloops would become senior high schools housing Grades 11 and 12.

The remaining secondary schools — Brocklehurst, Sa-Hali, Valleyview, Westsyde and the John Peterson building at South Kam — would house Grades 8 to 10, with about 500 students each.

Declining enrolment, frozen per-student funding, rising operating costs and a district that’s simply too big for the student population are all factors behind the many recommendations with which the board will grapple.

If all 50 recommendations are carried out, it could save the district a potential $3 million for one year.

If nothing is done, the district will be faced with a $12.8-million deficit by 2013.

“The status quo is not an option,” Christian said.

“We will be smaller, we will be leaner but, at the end of the day, we have to be educationally sound and viable.

“And I think we can do it.”

No decisions have been made and the board plans to set a date for community public consultations about the future of the district.

The full report is available online at

Possible closures:

• Haldane elementary annex

• Vavenby elementary

• Logan Lake elementary

• George Hillard elementary merging with Kay Bingham elementary

• Heffley Creek

• Arthur Hatton elementary merging with Jon Tod elementary

• Pinantan elementary

• Savona elementary

• Ralph Bell elementary

• Westwold elementary

• One North Shore secondary and one South Shore secondary by 2013.

Reaction to the report:

Art McDonald, director of facilities, chairman of facilities report committee:

“What we focused on is how to improve the system while enrolment continues to decline.

“Everything we looked at was about preserving the quality of our education and making sure we can improve our system over time.

In the next three to five years, McDonald expects enrolment to level out at about 13,000 students. But the district has the capacity for 18,000 students.

“So we have a significant capacity issue,” he said, noting the recommendations will address the space issue.

“We’ll be able to better place students in classrooms, class sizes will be bigger so they can be staffed better and, yes, there will be some costs incurred to do these things, but those things have been taken into account in the savings numbers.

“We realize the impact of this — this is lives, this is jobs, this is children. We understand that.

“We also understand we have tremendous financial difficulty every year because of the way we’re funded by the ministry and we need to deal with that as well.”

Leigh-Anne Larsen, DPAC spokeswoman:

“It’s a wow factor,” Larsen said.

“We did expect big changes, but I don’t think anything quite prepares you for 11 school closures.

“The district was very diligent in laying the foundation and being up front about the declining enrolment, so we knew it was coming.

“We encourage and expect further dialogue with the district as we face these challenges.”

David Komljenovic, KTTA president:

“It’s a devastating report and it’s unfortunate that the district is playing into the hands of the ministry and creating these efficiencies at the costs of our students and on programming.

After looking at the budget and the different scenarios, Komljenovic believes there were other ways to approach it.

“Even the best-case scenario has a $9.6 million shortfall over five years and that’s a concern.

“My question is: What is ministry doing to public education in this province? My concern is, I don’t know if anyone can ease the fears of the membership, of students, of parents — it’s devastating what is happening to our public education system here in Kamloops.”

John Hall, president CUPE 3500, union for the 701 support staff in district:

“It was an excellent report and I can’t really disagree with anything in the report itself,” he said, noting his concern rests in the breadth of the document and the uncertainty of just what will come to fruition.

“But anything that is implemented, there is going to be some disruption, there is going to be some pain, going to be some hard times for families within the district.

“There’s going to be some significant reductions of support staff — that’s going to be for sure.”

Hall said recent senior-management and administration raises puts families on different playing fields.

“The rest of us are going to be left behind and it really bothers me that we’re not all in this together.

“I hope they can sleep well tonight.

“You’re trying to look for a positive and you’re having a hell of a hard time finding it.

“I can’t ease anxieties other than this won’t happen overnight and you can plan your future — and the future isn’t looking too bright.”


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