Higher-than-anticipated enrolments in the South Cariboo could help boost the case for a replacement school for 100 Mile Elementary.
At the moment, the project is ranked as the second most important project in School District 27’s five-year plan, behind a new replacement for Marie Sharpe Elementary in Williams Lake. School District 27 Supt. Chris van der Mark said he would like to see both schools built, but notes it takes time to get money to replace even one school from the B.C. Ministry of Education.
“I would just say it’s a work in progress. Our number one priority is Marie Sharpe so there’s not an immediate plan regarding 100 Mile Elementary,” van der Mark said.
“We’re certainly above what we were projecting but we do currently have a place for students within our existing structures. If that becomes an ongoing trend it would certainly make the case for a new larger building more compelling.”
The school district said earlier this week that it has seen a significant bump in student enrolments this year, including at Forest Grove and Horse Lake elementary schools. At 100 Mile Elementary School, there are currently 315 students – about 92 per cent of its 341-student capacity.
The addition of three portables would boost the overall capacity to 416 students, but a staff report noted “the enrolment at this site should be monitored and not allowed to increase.”
It notes the electrical infrastructure would have to be upgraded to add additional portables. The school is also scheduled for a new roof, which van der Mark said is necessary maintenance.
“We have to maintain a safe, dry and workable environment but obviously the more of these projects a school has, with a limited annual facility grant, the harder it is to spread that money around 22 aging sites,” van der Mark said.
He said he doesn’t anticipate this year’s enrolment numbers to pose an issue to the school district plans, noting students in the South Cariboo typically migrate between the schools, with some 100 Mile students choosing to go to Forest Grove or Horse Lake elementary schools.
Although Forest Grove already has 94 students – something the school district didn’t expect for another 10 years – van der Mark said it does have a large Grade 7 class this year, which means there should be more space next year for new students.
“They’re kind of where we hope they’ll stay. If they hold around 90, 92, that’s perfect,” van der Mark said.
“Horse Lake is at 210 kids and Lac La Hache is usually quite a bit smaller but even it is up about 15 kids this year. Most of our sites are showing a real positive growth, which is great, and so far we’ve been able to make space.”
The Board has approved in principle that the replacement 100 Mile elementary school would be located at the former 100 Mile Junior site, but van der Mark stressed no concrete decisions have been made and they could just as easily build it beside the old school.
Meanwhile, one of the sites “in the hopper” for liquidation is the old Bridge Lake Elementary School building, closed since 2017.
Enrolment projections predict there will be no need to reopen it, van der Mark said, as Horse Lake Elementary School should be able to handle any enrolment bumps.