The Abbotsford School District is back at the drawing board, seeking space solutions to minimize reliance on portables while also keeping students at Abbotsford Traditional Secondary School during upcoming seismic work.
It’s still unclear when any decisions will be made on how students of the high school could be accommodated during the seismic work, as parents and students continue to push the district to keep students at the traditional campus, which includes adjoining Abbotsford Traditional Middle School.
Secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk provided a brief update Tuesday evening, saying the district is seeking solutions to appease parents while also minimizing expenses to the district in a time when the school district is looking at ways to plug their draining accumulated surplus.
“We began to look at exploring repurposing existing spaces within the whole campus, what opportunities we had to look at and how we would potentially right-size that capacity,” Velestuk said.
“Just look for opportunities to save and what can we do in the building to reduce the number of portables and then what would that look like? So we’re waiting to get some of that costing and design information back.”
Velestuk said he hopes to have that information back in time for the next public board meeting, scheduled for May 28.
Earlier that meeting, parents and students from the traditional campus, who filled the boardroom to voice their concerns, provided their own responses to new options presented by the school district in April.
By and large, the parents’ concerns echoed previous objections raised by parents – that relocating students to Rick Hansen Secondary School could mean more students at catchment schools, which they suggest could mean more use of portables there, or to private schools, removing the students from the public system.
“We cannot see how it would be possible to integrate the traditional students with the other Rick Hansen students. The teachers use differing styles of teaching, and there is no way to accommodate students that are used to a closed campus and no spares on an open campus with spares,” Carelle McKellan told the school board.
However, through their own research, parents also gave their own options with cost estimates to keep students on campus using portables.
Cost estimates from four suppliers for new portables ranged from $105,000 to just over $117,000 per portable, according to the parents’ research, the most expensive of four proposals.
Parents also noted costs of anywhere from just under $29,000 to just over $77,000 a piece to rent for 24 months, while used portables were estimated at $70,000 and relocating existing portables was estimated at just under $20,000.
They also challenged the school district’s declining enrolment projections, citing a 2017 projection that anticipated growth at the traditional campus – both schools combined – to grow from 852 in 2016 to 954 in 2028, an increase of about 12 per cent.
It’s still unclear when a decision will be made; it’s also unclear when work might start.
Velestuk said the district will seek to avoid starting construction in the middle of a semester if the ultimate decision is to move students to RHSS during the work to avoid disrupting the semester.
But if the plan is ultimately to keep all students on the traditional campus, Velestuk said construction could start in, for example, October, and students would simply move to another location on the same campus with less disruption.