Central Okanagan Public Schools expects to learn more next Monday about the possibility of a new provincial funding formula, the school board chair told The Daily Courier on Thursday.
Moyra Baxter said schools across the province are worried the B.C. government may change its approach to how it funds school districts, which might impact programs such as special-needs education.
“We have been very open about our concerns, if the government decides to fund certain areas of education in a different way,” she said.
“We are hoping that it won’t just be rolled into the block funding on a per capita basis, on some sort of estimation.”
Minister of Education Rob Fleming has notified school boards of a conference call on Monday.
Baxter is bracing for change, which may not work for a growing area such as the Central Okanagan.
Now, school districts get “a lump sum, so to speak,” and then additional funds for services such as special needs, Baxter said.
“We just don’t want to get complacent. We just want to make sure that we are meeting all the needs of students.”
It’s also an issue for school boards when providing support for students who may have behavioural issues, but who aren’t “officially” assessed or identified as special needs.
Baxter spoke of the funding formula after Wednesday night’s regular school board meeting.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, trustees approved the school district’s five-year capital plan.
School boards must submit their shopping lists to the provincial government before June 30.
Trustees unanimously approved Central Okanagan Public Schools’ submission, which includes requests for new schools, upgrades to existing schools and new school buses.
The Central Okanagan needs new high schools in Glenmore and West Kelowna, as well as new elementary schools in Wilden and the university area.
The additional elementary schools are longer-term requests.
The district is also hoping for cash to expand several elementary and middle schools, including Rutland, Springvalley, Dr. Knox and Const. Neil Bruce.
Rutland Middle School has 11 portable classrooms while Dr. Knox and KLO each have seven.
Educators also hope to replace Glenmore Elementary, George Pringle and Raymer as they struggle with overcrowding.
The trouble Central Okanagan Public Schools faces is land, Baxter said.
She said that about 15 years ago, the district sold off considerable assets in what’s proved to be a hasty move.
Now, the school district needs to find additional land for a Glenmore/Central Kelowna high school, Rutland Middle and West Kelowna high school sites.
The district owns a piece of land near the Apple Bowl, but it’s unlikely to be large enough for a high school.
Much of the space in Rutland is inside the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Without additional high schools, the Central Okanagan can’t implement new grade configurations.
The district wants elementary schools to include kindergarten to Grade 5, middle schools to have Grades 6-8 and secondary schools to have Grades 9-12.
“We’re looking at all options. We’re looking on both the Westside and central Kelowna, because until we get another high school in the Kelowna, Glenmore area, we can’t go forward with our grade reconfiguration,” Baxter said. “We cannot put another grade into KSS at the moment.”