School renovation deemed low priority

A proposed $15-million renovation of Summerland Secondary School has been deemed a low priority by the B.C. Education Ministry.

A proposed $15-million renovation of Summerland Secondary School has been deemed a low priority by the B.C. Education Ministry.

“I’m tremendously disappointed,” said Linda Van Alphen, one of the community’s two trustees on the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District.

The project, which would overhaul the school’s gymnasium and fine arts area and include accessibility and energy efficiency improvements, had been rated a high priority in the school district’s capital plan for at least a decade.

Van Alphen said she’ll continue to advocate for the facility, but is worried its tired state could have broader impacts in Summerland.

“How are we going to attract students or retain students at that school if we have a gym that looks like that?” she said.

Education Ministry spokesman Ben West said in a statement the Summerland project was ranked as low priority because the school “does not have the current enrolment nor projected enrolment growth necessary to support the extra space.”

The school, which competes for capital funding against all others in B.C., is operating at about two-thirds capacity with 420 students, he continued, and enrolment is expected to decline further over the next decade.

West also noted the district’s total enrolment is down by about a quarter since 2000-01, but in the meantime has received $53 million in capital funding for work at both Penticton high schools and to create additional spaces for full-time kindergarten.

Summerland Secondary School principal Chris Van Bergeyk was disappointed to learn his facility, where volleyball court lines run up the walls of the undersized gym, had slid down the priority list.

“There’s definitely a feeling of frustration on the part of the students,” Van Bergeyk said.

“I think (a renovation) would go a long way to improving some of that energy around the building.”

Six of the 11 other projects the district listed in its capital plan were bumped down by the ministry to medium priority.

The remaining high-priority projects are mechanical upgrades at four Penticton schools and the board office.