A handful of parents was on hand Tuesday night, Nov. 19, at West Sechelt Elementary School to discuss the proposed catchment area changes.
School District No. 46 (SD46) has engaged with the community for the past year as they try to minimize the impact on area families as the school district is faced with an over-crowded school.
Secretary-treasurer Nicholas Weswick said over-crowding is an issue now and will become an even bigger issue in the future.
“We are seeing a projected 150 per cent capacity at this school in the coming years,” he said. “It is not likely to become any easier to find more space. The West Sechelt area is growing. There is more development and more families coming in. The school just can not accommodate everyone.”
After community consultation, which began last September, the board passed a motion in February of this year to add portables to the school site as well as look at changing the catchment areas, which would send some West Sechelt students to Kinnikinnick Elementary School, which is currently under capacity.
Weswick said any current students attending West Sechelt and their siblings either currently attending or who will be attending in the future will not be asked to change schools.
“New students that come into the area could be going to a different school,” he said. “I want to assure parents, though, that we are not talking about uprooting current students. Families will be kept together.”
The tentative catchment area changes that have been proposed did not sit well with the parents who attended the meeting.
One parent said it just didn’t make sense when she lives a five-minute walk away from the school to now have to drive or bus her child to Kinnikinnick.
Another suggestion was to just add more portables to the school site.
“We’re going to do that, but it’s just not enough,” said Weswick. “The board’s intent is to minimize the amount of portables. Portables are seen as a short-term solution, but this is a long-term problem.”
Superintendent Patrick Bocking said with added portables you also put pressure on gym facilities, adequate outside playground facilities and washroom facilities.
“Portables are temporary structures by definition,” Bocking said. “This is not an easy situation and not something the board takes lightly.”
Another idea that was suggested would be for the SD46 to just add on to the existing school, but Weswick said capital funds for a school upgrade would be very unlikely from the provincial government.
“The provincial government looks at our school district as a whole and sees that we have under capacity in some schools, so until those schools fill up, they will not give us more money for capital upgrades. They will suggest catchment area changes first,” he said.
“Realistically, if we would have had a crystal ball, this school should have been built at a bigger capacity. We know that now, but the question is how do we address the problem of overcrowding.”
For more details on the proposed school catchment area changes, see the link on the SD46 website at: www.sd46.bc.ca/index.php/2013-14-board-meetings#ops.