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October 28, 2017 2:38 am

Back to school … closings

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
Labour Day weekend has come and gone and that means it’s back to school time. Or, more aptly in School District 57, school closing time.

As students settle into their ABCs, trustees will be sharpening their calculators and trying to figure out how to “pick the low hanging fruit.”
The Cascades Facilities Management report, released in the spring, made several recommendations. The most grandiose of those recommendations was to lobby the provincial government to build a large school (or renovate and existing one) in the south part of the city. The idea is to roll Blackburn Elementary, Pineview Elementary, Buckhorn Elementary and Hixon Elementary into one school.
In 2013-14, the four schools had a combined enrolment of 507 students, so a new school would have to be big enough for that many students.
Blackburn, with a capacity of 275 students, and Pineview, with a capacity of 205 students, are the most likely candidates for a renovation plan. Pineview probably gets the edge because it is more central to the area served by the four schools, although it was built in 1953 (Blackburn was built in 1967). Both are old schools in need of repair, so a new school is probably the best course of action.
That, however, requires the provincial approval. It’s not going to be an easy road.
The Cascades Facilities Management report also recommends getting rid of surplus properties. The report lists 18 such properties … everything from vacant land next to Blackburn Elementary to Central Fort George, which was closed a few years ago.
Selling off property not being used by the school district anymore is one way to help the bottom line (however selling assets only creates a one-time injection of funds and does little to help the ongoing problem to the province shearing the tree and then telling us to pick the low-hanging fruit).
It’s too bad the report only looked at the ‘surplus’ properties because the school district is sitting on one of the most valuable pieces of property in Prince George.
The old BC Tel building, which now houses the district administration offices, is located on the corner of Highway 16 and Ferry Avenue. If the school district really wanted to raise some cash, they could put that large chunk of land on the market. I’m sure a car dealership, or two, would jump at the opportunity, or a strip mall developer, or whatever. It wouldn’t sit on the market too long and would fetch a pretty penny.
As for the administration offices, why not move them into one of the ‘surplus’ schools? The old Central Fort George school would be a great location for the district office. If that isn’t large enough, then perhaps Blackburn would make a great spot … it certainly has enough room.
When the district is faced with the extremely difficult decision of closing schools, there should be no sacred cows. Every possibility should be looked at. We’ve closed school after school and yet the administration office remains the same size it was before all the schools closed.
The Cascades Facilities Management report contains ‘facilities conditions indexes’ for each school in the district along with a report on where they are in terms of capacity. Maybe a similar report should be conducted for the administration office.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at billphillips1@mac.com




Not only has the school district administion office stayed the same size but the administration has grown???? With today’s modern management systems and equipment this fact stinks of cronyism. I believe the top level administration would never move into an old moldy school. They are not interested in whats best for the students. Much more important for them that the superintendents have a nice castle. Let them eat cake.

“The old BC Tel building, which now houses the district administration offices, is located on the corner of Highway 16 and Ferry Avenue.’

That old building may have been the non plus ultra at the time it was designed but now (in my opinion) it is just an eyesore. The land it sits on will sell in the blink of eye for a pile of money. Take dome of that money and build a new “nice castle” for the administration. A three to four story modern building should be able to house the staff and have a couple of floors for renting out and making money to run it. It would also be more energy efficient. Locate it downtown (think downtown revitalization) and include a parking garage underneath.

Do not make it too big and lavish as staff size will reduce itself due to ever diminishing enrolment numbers.

While they’re at it get working on a contract for the vice principals and principals…the highest level teachers make more money than a principal of an elementary school…that’s brutal!

Good write up Bill Phillips who wrote, We’ve closed school after school and yet the administration office remains the same size it was before all the schools closed.

That’s the first repair job , get rid of all the unnecessary dead wood ,
the placement of the administration staff into an unused school would also make economic sense, all good suggestions Bill. Now we await a response from those who make those decisions.

How come the teachers are always picked but the glass palace up the hill gets a free pass?

Huge potential some of these schools have yards that are enourmous and nobody real utilizes them can be sold for top dollar also pgss can take more capacity closing down kellyroad and putting students into dutchess and pgsss and upgrade dp todd back to except up to grade 12 would be the best move and sell the kelly road to developers

A few years ago all of the Elementary Vice Principals positions were eliminated. Now they have been replaced. Really? Why? Also, maybe the fleet cars for senior administration should be gone. If you need to travel to a school from the Central Office, use your own vehicle and get paid the standard milage; or better yet, use one of the two “pool cars”. There are expenses that can be cut completely rather than closing down more schools.

Better than closing more schools maybe cut the bloated administration. Leave the kids alone.

Cut the bloated admin and sell the excess land and problem solved

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