School District 52 has received a positive response from the province to fund demolishing the abandoned Seal Cove and Kanata elementary schools. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Unsafe Seal Cove and Kanata schools to be demolished

Prince Rupert’s school district shut the schools down in 2008, the buildings have deteriorated since

After 11 years since closing the school doors at Seal Cove and Kanata Elementary, the school district has found provincial funding to demolish the buildings once and for all.

When the two Prince Rupert schools were closed in 2008, the heat was also shut off.

“They’ve been sitting there unheated for 11 years now, and the buildings are in very poor condition,” said Cam McIntyre, secretary treasurer for School District 52.

“We’ve been keeping the Ministry of Education aware of the challenges we’re facing.”

Kanata is the biggest concern. McIntyre said that people have been trying to break into the building, and with the floorboards starting to break through and the toxic air it’s dangerous.

School District 52 plans to remove hazardous materials inside Seal Cove and Kanata elementary schools before demolishing the buildings. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

“We put a request in our capital budget this year to see if we can get some money for demolishing the schools, which is not something the ministry has funded in the past,” he said.

This year, the provincial government set aside $5 million for this purpose, and since School District 52 already had a request in to demolish the two schools they received a positive response from the ministry.

The school district doesn’t know exactly how much money they will receive to tear down the buildings. They’re in the process of providing a business case to the province, and once that’s submitted McIntyre expects to see some funding.

Demolishing the schools won’t happen overnight. There are two phases to the plan. The first is to remove all hazardous materials, such as asbestos. The school district is working with a consultant to get a formal report submitted on how to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials in the next year.

The next phase is to tear down the rest of the buildings and recycle as much as they can. But with no room left in the city’s landfill, McIntyre isn’t sure when this will be achieved.

“Hopefully in a couple of years the city has its new cell open,” he said.

Once both the schools have been demolished, the Seal Cove property will go back to the Crown and the school district will be looking to sell the property at the Kanata site.

The board of education had previously tried to sell the Kanata school property to the Bryton Group in 2015, but the sale was dependent on rezoning the site from public to residential, and the deal ultimately fell through in March 2018.

READ MORE: Deal for Kanata school property falls through

“That would have been up to the purchaser to address the building in that particular case,” McIntyre said. “It is good news if we can get this done then that should be a more attractive property for the district to sell down the road.”

The third empty school in Prince Rupert, Westview Elementary School, has also stood empty for years, but it’s not in “atrocious condition” like the other two schools. Westview closed in 2011, and some of the heat was left on. The building has since become a storage space for the school district.

READ MORE: Mold creating uncertainty around fate of closed down schools

Budget 2019-2020

On April 9, the board of education adopted the annual budget that saw $710,500 spending cuts in some departments and $115,000 in new spending — mainly to improve literacy levels.

Despite challenges to balance the budget, the board saw the importance of addressing literacy concerns for early learning.

Results from a literacy assessment revealed that 72 per cent of kindergarten students, and 50 per cent of Grade 1 students are at risk of not meeting the reading requirements by Grade 3.

Superintendent Irene LaPierre, presented an Early Literacy Intervention Plan to provide reading recovery training and resources for kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers. The plan would add $100,000 to the annual budget.

“The board faced a tremendous challenge to address the needs of our students within a balanced budget,” said board chair James Horne in the press release. “The board was unified in its support of the Early Literacy Intervention Plan proposed by the superintendent, and this was the only significant new program approved.”

The technology department took a big hit with $160,000 cut from its $570,000 budget.

McIntyre said the implications may be that equipment is replaced every five years, instead of every three, or there may be some programs that aren’t used very often that are cut.

Two teaching positions at Charles Hays Secondary School have also been cut, as well as three educational assistant positions. With less Grade 8 students going into Grade 9, McIntyre said they need less teachers in the high school.

Shannon Lough | Editor
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