Education Minister Mike Bernier (l) and Premier Christy Clark announce new education funding.

Education Minister Mike Bernier (l) and Premier Christy Clark announce new education funding.

Flurry of education funding benefits School District 74

The provincial government keeps finding new funds to throw at education. Is it politics, or a realization they have cut too deep?

School District No. 74 (SD74) has received $100,000 from the B.C. government to upgrade the school heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system at David Stoddart School in Clinton, under the provincial Carbon Neutral Capital Program.

The announcement, which was made last week, is one of several education funding initiatives that have been made in recent months. The government’s school “fix-it” fund in May grew from $40 to $45 million dollars; some $25 million in mandated administrative savings made by school districts were given back by the government; and last month districts received almost $15 million to help with school transportation costs.

Now another $20 million in “school enhancement” funds has been announced, with districts invited to resubmit applications that did not qualify for the earlier “fix-it” fund. SD74 board of trustees co-chair Carmen Ranta is pleased with the funding announcements, but says that her district alone could easily use the entire $20 million in recently-announced funding.

“The challenge in SD74 is aging facilities and school construction and renovations,” she says, noting that one project alone—changing-room renovations carried out at Kumsheen Secondary in Lytton during the 2015–16 school year—cost more than $800,000.

Among the projects carried out this summer with the assistance of provincial funding and grants were roof resurfacing and play surface installation at David Stoddart; library reconfiguration and gym floor rebranding and resurfacing at Desert Sands Community School in Ashcroft; floor replacement at Lytton Elementary; and floor replacement and gym floor resurfacing at Kumsheen Secondary.

Ranta suspects that the recent announcements could be a political move to get some points in the run-up to next spring’s provincial election. “This flurry of funding announcements for schools is either government politicking, or they see that they’ve cut far enough. They realize that pressure has gone too high, and they’re making adjustments to that pressure.”

The recent grant of $366,000 for transportation that SD74 received is appreciated, but Ranta notes that transportation is not really an issue within the district. “We’re really looking for money for school reconfiguration and amalgamation. The decision has been made [by the board of trustees] to go to a K to 12 school in Lytton, but the question is how.”

She points out that there have been several community meetings to discuss the issue, and that one option would be a new building using community partnerships. “We don’t believe we will get government dollars for a brand new K–12 school downtown, which is what the community wants. This year will see the discussions continue, but decisions will need to be made.”

The district is also pursuing the construction of a new elementary school in Lillooet to replace Cayoosh and George Murray Elementary schools. “We’re trying to be cost effective, and not pour dollars into empty classrooms.

“The government is very clear about what School District 74 needs. We have good relations with the province, and seem to be doing better at getting grants. They know where we’re at, and we’re diligently advocating and will continue to do so.”

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