The status quo but with tweaks — that sums up School District 71’s view on its facilities and how they’ll be used in the future.
It’s the “tweaks” that has trustees a little concerned. At the latest board meeting, they said people in different school communities might start to worry about plans to move students around the district.
Director of operations Ian Heselgrave, though, is stressing the status quo part.
“The expectation is there are no plans to change anything at this time,” he said during his presentation on the long-range facilities plan for 2021-2031.
In January, the district had Cascade Facilities Management Consultants prepare the report. The document looks at schools not only by level but by rural versus urban. It includes tables with a score based on the condition of each facility as well as its replacement value, and one with recent capital plan submissions highlighted and seismic upgrading. About a third are categorized as “very poor condition,” though Heselgrave said the rankings do not take into account recent work, meaning it is hard to get a strong ranking unless the school is new.
The report also includes information on surplus properties and an inventory of portable or modular units by school, and in terms of demand, it shows demographic changes in the communities and projected enrolment.
“We really want to get a handle on what our enrolment projections are,” Heselgrave said, adding they have a good sense for the next five years but the five years beyond are harder to predict.
The document does point to four potential options for its buildings, with the status quo plus some minor changes as the preferred one.
“The system that we have right now works, but it needs improving,” he said.
Secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker added the staff are stressing that the current document is only a draft and will be the subject of any upcoming public meeting on Monday, June 7 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. At present, the report includes no conclusions.
As the report notes, the Ministry of Education gave districts notice two years ago that they were to develop and maintain a long-range plan for facilities. The purpose is to guide a district in its long-term facilities usage and provide support for future capital plan submissions to the Ministry of Education.
The report does say the district has undergone several grade structure organizations over the last 25 years, especially in response to changing enrolment. As some trustees noted, the talk of facilities’ futures could be interpreted as changes to school communities.
“That wouldn’t be done without consultation,” Hooker responded.
Board chair Sheila McDonnell suggested the report could include an executive summary to stress the point there are no immediate actions planned for school facilities right now.
After discussion, the trustees passed a motion to receive the draft report.
During the previous school year, School District 71 faced situations around school populations at a few school sites and undertook a review process to look at catchment areas for the near future.