Pemberton Secondary nearing capacity 

School district looking at additions but must wait to hear from province

Pemberton schools are starting to bump right up against their caps.

That seems to be the case if numbers provided by the Sea to Sky School District are any indication.

Rick Hume, School District 48's director of facilities and services, said the district is looking at making some additions to Pemberton Secondary School because the number of students is actually exceeding its capacity.

The school has a nominal capacity for 250 students and in the last school year alone it had 306. The year before that it had 287. In the 2010-2011 school year it's expected to accommodate 305 students. Beyond that, in 2011-2012, Pemberton Secondary is expected to take 294 students and it's projected to go back up to 300 in 2012-2013.

Though the school is seeking additions to help it take on a total of 350 students, Hume said it wasn't as simple as requesting it and getting what you need.

"What happens is, they look at the whole province, they look at all the increasing enrolment in all the school districts so we're in a pool with the rest of the province," Hume said. "So they're not specifically looking at our school district, but they certainly will be considering it. We've got four portables on site right now, we're using all four to accommodate, not so much as overcrowding, but the additional students."

Meanwhile Signal Hill Elementary School is seeing lots of enrolment but there's likely to be room for plenty of students in the coming years.

Hume said Signal Hill has a capacity of 475 students and this past year it had 369 enrolled. In the 2010-2011 year it's expected to have 380 and in 2011-2012 it's projected to have 405 students.

The revelations about capacity come as the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has put the brakes on plans to purchase the property housing the old Pemberton Secondary School facility up the Pemberton Meadows Road, using a reserve of amenity funds it's been collecting from the Rutherford and Miller Creek hydro projects.

The SLRD initially looked at the school site with the possibility of using its playing fields for recreational purposes but that no longer seems possible.

In January the Ministry of Education sent the regional district a letter indicating that the school district could not purchase the school site because government policy states that schools are "valuable public assets."

It wants schools to remain available for "neighbourhood learning centre initiatives" as well as the implementation of full-day kindergarten, which will begin to be implemented in various B.C. communities in September of 2011 and will bring an additional modular classroom to the Sea to Sky School District.

The old high school facility is unlikely to accommodate students again but that doesn't mean the site won't be used for any future facilities. School Trustee Dave Walden said there's a possibility another school could be built on that site one day but he also said there were no imminent plans for that.

The SLRD is now taking suggestions on what to do the with the reserve, which is about to see an addition of $2.49 million in amenity funds coming from the WedgeWoods development just outside Whistler.

SLRD Area C Director Susie Gimse said at the regional district's June 28 meeting that there have been some suggestions on what to do with the cash but she didn't specify where it would go. Thus far it's believed the reserve fund has collected about $800,000.




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