As Thornhill Junior Secondary School closes its doors to students for the last time this week, the question on many people’s lips is, ‘But what’s going to happen to all of the stuff?’
For some items, like desks, chairs, textbooks and shop equipment, the answer is fairly simple – first, they will be offered to Skeena Middle School and Caledonia Senior Secondary to be used to furnish the portables just moved in to each location and to fill any equipment or supplies needs they may have.
“The resources follow the students,” said Thornhill principal Jane Arbuckle, who has been watching trollies of textbooks get ready to roll out of Thornhill’s doors for weeks now. “Why would you pay for something you already have?” said Arbuckle of using items from her school to help out the ones remaining open.
Once Skeena and Caledonia claim their picks, what’s left will be offered to the other schools in the district. After that, they’ll go to public auction – a process that can take about a year – or be placed into storage for future use.
One tradition that ends with the closing of Thornhill’s doors, and that won’t be able to be placed into storage for future use, are the colourful ceiling tile covers peppered throughout the school created by past graduates.
Arbuckle has entertained a small number of requests from former students to collect their tiles – she says they have special, sentimental meaning to some former students.
‘“As far as banners and trophies go, we hope the gym will stay open. We haven’t made any final decisions,” said Arbuckle. “We’re not wanting to remove anything like that because we hope the building will still be used.”
“It’s a beautiful gym,” she said, adding that the banners and trophies make up “the history of the building.”
“There’s no protocol for closing a school,” she continued of the decision brought on by declining school enrollments.
But what happens to the banners and trophies isn’t up to the community – the building is owned by the school district, and unless they find a group (or groups) willing to incur the costs of operating the building, the school will remain dark.
“It’s not cheap to run that building,” said John Garossino, director of facilities for the Coast Mountains school district. “We’re talking $50-$60,000 a year just for energy.” Maintenance, snow removal and custodial costs would be on top of that.
“But we are open for proposals,” said Garossino. “We would look at any proposal in which there is a body, a group, who would carry insurance, use the building, and cover the costs.”
At this time, there is no agreement – just preliminary talks between the Kitimat-Stikine regional district and Terrace parks and recreation to discuss options.
“It was a necessary decision to close, the board believes,” Garossino said. “But it’s still a community asset.”
But he said the school board’s position is clear that it would rather spend money on education than on buildings. “We don’t want to spend education dollars on the building,” he said.
Wanting to keep the banners and trophies up, is an “admirable position,” said Garossino. But in his experience, “with all of the schools we’ve closed, it usually gets boxed up and put into archives.”
“But lets just take one step at a time,” he said.
Ultimately, he thinks the utilization of the building will be resolved. “Between [Terrace] parks and rec, the regional district, the community groups, they might be able to raise a substantial amount to run parts of the building,” he said.
Community groups use the gym regularly, including badminton and archery clubs, indoor volleyball and soccer leagues. The foyer attached to the gym is also used as a local polling station.
“I hate to think of where all of those groups are going to go in the fall,” said Arbuckle.
This past Friday, June 22, Thornhill hosted one last event, what Arbuckle called an open house to close the house. There was food, live music, old yearbook photos decorating the walls, and alumni had the opportunity to purchase school-branded clothing and merchandise from the past 37 years.