What does Mayor John Harwood think about District of Clearwater’s proposal to acquire Dutch Lake School?
“We’ve been working at this for some time,” said Harwood, “but it’s a property matter so it’s all been in camera. Now we need to go public.”
The mayor explained that, according to the Act, the school board needs to consult the public before it can dispose of a former school. It also needs the permission of the Ministry of Education.
Harwood noted that the District has been encouraged by MLA Terry Lake to apply for Towns for Tomorrow funding to renovate the school. In small communities the provincial program provides 80 per cent funding for infrastructure projects.
“The Community Resource Center would not necessarily be part of it but could be,” the mayor said. Harwood noted that it would take several years to get Dutch Lake School operational in a new format. The CRC, in the meantime, is developing a plan over the next few months to determine which direction it wants to go.
The resource center looked into moving into Dutch Lake a few years ago but decided not to because of the high cost of necessary renovations.
Those expensive renovations were based on the assumption that the school would remain school district property.
If the municipality acquires Dutch Lake any renovations would not need to meet such high standards as needed in schools today, Harwood explained.
Harwood pointed out that, in fact, the high cost of upgrading the school, especially after it’s been closed for several years, might be one more reason why the school district might favor getting rid of it.
If the population of the upper North Thompson Valley rebounds, it might make sense to build a new elementary school, he felt.
“I think we’re due for a new elementary school,” said the mayor. He noted that both Dutch Lake and Raft River elementary schools are relatively old and that there is ample property near Clearwater Secondary School for a new school. Such a facility would be able to share such things as buses and playing fields with the secondary school, he said.
Dutch Lake School is structurally sound, he said. School District 73 put a new roof on it two years ago and spends about $40,000 per year maintaining it.
The mayor noted that District of Clearwater’s present office space is tight in the existing building. He gave as an example the fact that he has to share his office with the building inspector.
Handicap access is another problem at the existing building. Adding ramps so people in wheelchairs can get into the building would be an expensive undertaking.
How much the municipality would pay for the school would have to be negotiated, he said. The mayor noted that the money all comes out of the same taxpayer’s wallet, but added that some at the school district would be wary of disposing it at too low a price, for fear of setting a precedent.