With more families choosing to make West Kelowna their home, it automatically means more youth in local schools. However, School District 23 is running out of space for new students, with its main secondary school, Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary, already bursting at the seams.
According to Global News, Mount Boucherie has a capacity of 1,325, but currently has approximately 1,500 students enrolled. That number is expected to increase to 1,800 by 2029. The best course of action would be to build another school for the westside, but that presents its own issues.
Land is scarce in the westside, despite what one might see while out and about. Any open land is more often than not part of the Agricultural Land Reserve and would thus need a special designation to allow construction to occur. This involves a long process to prove to the Agricultural Land Commission that the proposed land would be better used for a school instead of agriculture.
Other open areas are on Westbank First Nation (WFN) land and will need to be negotiated if any construction is to take place. One proposed area for a new high school is beside the Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre, but it will depend on the outcome of a WFN referendum slated for Jan. 21, 2021 to get feedback from members.
According to Castanet, the question being asked in the referendum is, in part, “do you support leasing a portion of lot 472…which shall not exceed 12 acres for a value of not less than $1 million per acre, to School District 23 for a term of up to 125 years for the purpose of construction and operation by SD23 of a secondary school facility and other educational uses?”
Other options SD23 has considered would be building an addition onto Mount Boucherie, or possibly start busing students to other schools in the area. The former would require building up and add another storey, as there is no more room to expand out. The latter would be unlikely to happen, since other high schools in the area are also full to bursting.
Be sure to keep an eye on the Tallus Ridge Facebook page as we’ll post updates as they become available.