Recent History – 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak
Tenders for School District 59’s project to build a smaller and more efficient Pouce Coupe Elementary School could be issued in a year’s time.
“We have had interest from the Village of Pouce Coupe and we have come up with a funding arrangement to construct a modular school in Pouce,” Sam Barber, operations manager, told the regular board meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
“We could be into the tender process by this time next year, there is no reason to believe we can’t do it.”
An innovative partnership, like the one used to upgrade the McLeod School gym, between the Village of Pouce Coupe and the school district might facilitate the construction of the new school.
“The Pouce school has basically been on the replacement list for the ministry for many years and all sorts of factors have made it drop off that list,” said superintendent Bill Deith. “So now we are really pushing that something happens to Pouce as we keep on repairing it. We would rather move on to a new building.”
The plan is to construct a shared facility that would act as both a school and a community centre, thus splitting the capital costs associated with construction between the municipality and the school district.
“What we would end up with is a community school more or less where it is being shared so that during the night it is being used by Pouce Coupe and during the day the students would be there using the facilities,” said Deith. “They are participating with us and that is a very exciting thing for us.”
However, in order for the plan to move forward the district must secure funding from the Ministry of Education. According to Deith, it makes more sense to ask the government to fund the construction of a new building designed to accommodate the school’s current 150-student population than to replace the old school that was built for 450 students. But, with an excess of school space throughout the district, Deith said his first priority is to convince the government that Pouce Coupe needs its own school.
“The other issue is that we have some empty space in ‘nearby’ schools,” said Deith referring to schools in Dawson Creek. “To the ministry’s point of view that is pretty close, so they say ‘why would we want to replace Pouce Coupe?’ But, we feel pretty strongly that we would like to keep it.”
During the meeting, trustee Elmer Kabush summed up the board’s feelings about the village’s only school.
“It is important that the Ministry of Education fund a new school for Pouce Coupe,” he said.
Just how much funding would be needed for the new school is still up for debate, said Deith. “It’s very difficult right now because the price of steel in particular keeps fluctuating,” he said. “It might be $4 million but it might be a lot less. Part of funding would have to come from the ministry, from Pouce and from our reserve for capital projects.”
He pledged that the district would do everything it could to see the plan through to fruition. “We really want it to happen, but we can’t do it by ourselves,” he said.