Making the case for Kelly Road
Thursday, October 29, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
It’s a big ask.
However, we’ll never get it if we don’t ask.
On Tuesday the School District 57 board put replacing Kelly Road Secondary School at the top of its five-year capital plan.
The price tag, at $41 million, is in the ball park of the $39 million Duchess Park Secondary School replacement in 2010.
The asking part is easy, the selling part will be a little harder.
For one thing, $41 million is a significant amount of money and Victoria seems to focus on student-rich areas like Surrey when it comes to building schools. So the board will have to do more than ask. It will have to lobby Victoria long and hard. And it will have to get the community behind the push … that will certainly help.
The tough part will be convincing Victoria that the replacement is needed.
The first answer to that, though, is the school was built in 1963. It’s 52 years old. Like most of us in our 50s, it’s getting a little creaky.
In the Cascades Facilities Management report on the state of district schools, Kelly Road was one of three that were listed in poor condition. Only Blackburn Elementary was rated as being in worse shape.
There is no doubt that Kelly Road has served its purpose, and done it well. It’s time for a new school.
It will take more than that to convince Victoria to commit the funds because the enrolment projections for Kelly Road aren’t as rosy as they were 50 years ago, or even 15 years ago.
In 2001, there were 17,493 students enrolled in School District 57. That is estimated to drop to 11,900 in 2016. The good news is that enrolment is predicted to remain steady for the next 10 years.
Kelly Road has a capacity of 1,150 students. According to the Cascades report, which was issued prior to September this year, had enrolment pegged at 718 students. That is projected to drop to 587 by 2023. That means, without any changes, Kelly Road would be operating at 51 per cent capacity by 2023.
In other words, the school would be half empty.
That will make it a tough sell in Victoria. With Duchess Park and DP Todd both projected to be operating over-capacity by 2023, there is no doubt the school is needed. However, the ministry will likely look at the fact that Prince George Secondary School is projected to be operating at 58 per cent capacity in 2023, (880 students). With a capacity of 1,500 students, that means it can handle just over 600 more students … the 587 expected to be attending Kelly Road in 2023.
The ministry will almost certainly pressure the district to move to four high schools rather than five.
At the very least, should a new school be approved at Kelly Road, it will be about half the size of the current school.
One thing is certain, nothing new will be built without a concerted push from the school board and the best tool it can use for that push is to let Victoria know that it is being pushed, big time, by the community.
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 email@example.com