Just before school went back in session, the government announced it is once again aiming to help school districts extend the life of B.C. schools with an additional $20 million made available to repair, upgrade and improve facilities this year through the School Enhancement Program.
This could have direct implications for the Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 that spans from Golden in the north all the way to Kimberley in the south. This accounts for 14 different schools throughout the area.
Now in its second year of operation, the School Enhancement Program has already helped the Rocky Mountain School District, according to superintendent Paul Carriere.
“Last year we applied for the School Enhancement Program funding for a number of projects, and were approved for one,” he said. “$840,000 for a roof replacement at Golden Secondary School.”
The newly announced funding builds on the already $45 million that the province invested in 124 schools throughout British Columbia this past May, and allows schools districts to resubmit previous applications or apply for funding for new projects that weren’t part of the application process earlier this year.
School districts are now being notified how they can apply for funding under the program with projects being selected based on need, priority and supporting student learning. Districts have until September 15th to apply with all approved projects to be substantially completed before March 31st, 2017.
Carriere said that the school district is currently in the process of examining these criteria and prioritizing the needs of the school district.
“This year is a very tight turnaround in that we are required to make our submission to the Ministry by September 15th, and we will hear back from the Ministry as to which projects are approved prior to September 30th,” he said. “As our facilities age, we always need to be looking at life-cycle replacements and we constantly monitor our systems so we can prioritize our needs.”
He said that given the deadlines, whatever project is potentially approved under the School Enhancement Program will allow them to take it out of their capital plan, which will allow them to move forward with other capital projects — HVAC upgrades, boiler replacements, energy efficiency upgrades, roofing replacements and replacements of school buses — faster than they otherwise could.
Without these funds, other items on their capital plan may not receive the attention they need until the funding is freed up sometime in the unknown future, he said.
“We really appreciate this additional support from the Ministry,” Carriere said.