IT WOULD take quite a bit of searching to find a more complicated set of circumstances facing an organization than those facing the Coast Mountains school district concerning its growing number of empty schools.
In Terrace alone the school district has once-open Copper Mountain, Kiti K’Shan, the ET Kenney building of the Suwilaawks school and as of this summer, Thornhill Junior Secondary School to worry about.
School board chair Art Erasmus is absolutely correct when he says it makes no sense to have students in half-empty schools because it takes as much money to take care of a half-empty school as it does one that is full. That’s why students are being consolidated in the area’s remaining schools. And he’s also correct when he says there is still a cost to maintaining an empty school even though, over time, empty buildings deteriorate regardless. So, to borrow a phrase, the school district is stuck between a rock and a natural gas heating bill.
Even the most optimistic among us isn’t forecasting an immediate enough influx of newcomers to re-open closed schools in the next year or two. And, if by some magical feat, the area is hit by a rash of pregnancies right about now, it will take five-plus years for those babies to start school.
Selling those buildings may be the only option but it would be an unpalatable one at best.