At least one parent wants to know what has happened to School District 27’s funding to replace Marie Sharpe Elementary School.
Tom Hoffman, Columneetza secondary parent advisory council chair asked for clarification on the point during the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday.
Hoffman asked the board what has happened to the $4 million targeted for reconstruction of Marie Sharpe and the $800,000 spent to design the replacement school.
He also asked if the insides of Marie Sharpe school can still be moved to Williams Lake secondary school and if funds ear-marked for Marie Sharpe could legally be used for other projects.
Secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller explained that funding for Marie Sharpe is sitting in a “restricted by ministry” account.
Unlike local capital funds where the board has full control over expenses, she said the board must have permission from the Ministry of Education to spend restricted funds.
Roller said the board has made a motion not to go ahead with replacing Marie Sharpe at this time which releases funding for other projects.
“We believe that money will be eligible for us to use on other projects,” Roller said. “That request would have to go into the minister, should a decision be made between now and when the money is spent.”
She confirmed that $800,000 has been spent on a design for the new Marie Sharpe school and that the board will look at covering this cost out of the “restricted ministry” funds.
The board could go forward and ask the Ministry of Education to cover that cost or use the restricted money to cover the cost. The money sitting in the restricted account is technically the ministry’s money because the board has to have permission to spend it, she further explained.
“The minister could say we have to cover that cost with the restricted money,” Roller explained. “The sale of Anne Stevenson school [now Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake] was $4 million and that money was supposed to be used for the replacement of Marie Sharpe school specifically and the closure of one other school.”
She explained that because of the economy and work being done by the present board on school options, a new elementary school is not needed in this area.
“This was started in 2003, 2004,” she added. “The board feels the money would be better spent in other areas.”
The board’s Initial Options Report proposes closing Glendale, Kwaleen, and Wildwood elementry schools to address falling student enrolment and school underutilization problems.
Roller also noted the option to move the “insides” of Marie Sharpe to WLSS is still possible.
“It is legal for us to do this, as long as we have the minister’s permission in writing.