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Posted: November 23, 2017

Education minister invited to MBSS and Fernie

Unfortunately, the following action taken by School District No. 5 (SD5) School Board of Trustees has become a repetitive one in the past decade.

SD5 trustees recently agreed to send to a letter to Hon. Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, inviting him to tour Mount Baker Secondary School (MBSS) as well as Fernie.

SD5 board chair Frank Lento

“As you must be aware, having been copied on all letters our board has written to government over the past nine years, our board has expended considerable and concerted effort to secure the replacement of MBSS including (but not limited to) public consultations, facility reports and securing partnerships.

“MBSS, located in Cranbrook, is almost 70 years old and is the largest school in the East and West Kootenay. There is extensive use of the school by the community including use of the Key City Theatre (KCT). The KCT shares plumbing, HVAC etc. with the school and provides considerable opportunity to our students,” stated the SD5 letter, signed by board chair Frank Lento.

“Studies and audits of the past 20 years identify major deficiencies in structure, fabric, operation, function, code, compliance and accessibility of the school. Exterior deficiencies include a lack of air/vapour barriers and adequate insulation; single glazed and wood framed windows and ineffective solar control devices. These inefficiencies are costly to the district in both utility costs and carbon offsets.

“Interior concerns include uneven flooring, vinyl asbestos tile, asbestos board and low, damaged ceiling areas. Clean up has taken place due to mercury contamination, and “temporary” repairs to roof trusses, due to snow load, continue to require attention,” Lento said.

Additionally, SD5 wants the new Education Minister to be aware of population growth in the City of Fernie and needed facility improvements.

“Isabella Dicken Elementary School (IDES) is the only elementary school that remains open in Fernie. It houses grades kindergarten to six. IDES is over 50 years old, operates 23 classrooms (five of which are kindergarten this year) and has required six portable classrooms to accommodate the community’s ever-­increasing enrolment needs. In addition to these classrooms, the school supports two student services teachers and one counsellor, a music and a band program. It houses a library and one rather under-sized activity room (that is utilized as the school gymnasium),” Lento outlined, adding, “The City of Fernie grew by 18% last year and boasts the highest growth rate of all cities in Canada.

Isabella Dickens Elementary School

“The parents and community of Fernie are so concerned about the city’s growth that the Mayor and Council met not just with our Board of Education; in March 2017, city representatives met with the Ministry of Education to discuss the need for expansion of IDES.”

Lento and the board, having led numerous ministers of education on tours of MBSS in the last nine years, point out to Fleming they understand the pressures on his office, especially when having to deal with the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

“Our board understands that the inaction of the previous government to adequately address seismic upgrades and overcrowding issues in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island during their tenure places considerable demand on your government to redress these issues.

“While still inadequate, the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island have received a number of school replacements and seismic upgrades while government has remained mostly indifferent to the needs of districts in the rest of the province.

“This practice has been unfair to students, taxpayers and the cash-strapped districts that are forced to allocate vital education dollars on building upkeep and carbon taxes simply because their buildings are old, inefficient and in need of replacement.

“We are hopeful that the current government will be considerate of all capital replacement and upgrade needs equally across the province,” the board letter offers.

“Given the geographic size, and the diversity of our district, we would strongly recommend that you plan an overnight stay when you plan your visit to SD5. We look forward to touring you around our district to share the amazing educational opportunities our dedicated teachers, support staff and administrators continue to provide for our students, despite the restrictions that limited and inadequate building infrastructure poses to 21st Century education and the implementation of the province’s newly revised curriculum,” the board letter concludes.

Lead image: Mike Bernier was the most recent Minister of Education to tour MBSS. The Education Minister tours also always include City of Cranbrook and community contingents trying to press home the vital need for a new facility. e-KNOW file photo


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