Webber Road centre

A new high school would have to fit into the footprint of this former school-turned community centre, the Agricultural Land Commission has ruled.

It’s now on to Plan B in the quest to build a new high school in West Kelowna by 2023.

Central Okanagan Public Schools was hoping to use land it already owns for a new secondary school large enough for 1,100 students.

But the provincial Agricultural Land Commission foiled that plan by ruling the school district can only build on the site using the existing footprint of the former Webber Road Elementary.

“That old school, which is leased to the City of West Kelowna for use as a community centre, only has four classrooms and is not suitable for a 1,100-student high school,” said Central Okanagan Public Schools secretary-treasurer Ryan Stierman.

“We were planning on building a big, new school on the site and possibly keeping the community centre, too, so the stipulation that a building be no larger than the existing one doesn’t work for us.”

The Agricultural Land Commission’s decision was officially presented to Central Okanagan Public Schools staff and trustees at the planning and facilities committee meeting this week.

“We’re now looking for another site,” said Stierman.

“We need a second high school on the Westside and it’s the No. 1 priority in our capital plan.”

West Kelowna has only one high school, Mount Boucherie, which is over capacity at 1,400 students with nine portable classrooms and three more on the way.

A new high school closer to Glenrosa would serve the “westside of the Westside,” according to Stierman.

Students from that catchment area would attend the new school as would overflow from Mount Boucherie and Grade 9 students from Glenrosa Middle School, which also has reached capacity.

The school district has earmarked $68 million for a new high school in West Kelowna and would like to get the location sorted out soon.

Once that’s determined, it takes three or four years to plan and build such a big structure.

That means even if land and provincial government approval are secured next year, the school wouldn’t be ready until the start of the 2023-24 or 2024-25 school year.

The Westside used to have two secondary schools, but the school board decided in 2002 to close George Pringle Secondary. The building was converted to an elementary school.