Monday April 21, 2014

Downtown school's options in question

City will find a future for Stuart Wood if it closes

Stuart Wood School principal Syd Griffith rings a bell to call children into school in this file photo.

The future of Stuart Wood elementary school is in question as far as it continuing as a place of formal education.

But there are other options for the City-owned edifice that marked its centennial anniversary in 2007.

City heritage commission chairman Andrew Yarmie said the building is a designated heritage structure, like the old courthouse and the old cigar factory.

That means no changes can be made to the building without the City’s permission, although that rule mainly applies to the exterior. The old cigar factory, which now houses Venture Kamloops, had some renovations done to the interior to make it more functional and that is allowed even with the heritage designation.

Even the old courthouse has had some interior alterations, although the City tried to preserve the main court room and as much of the rest of the building as was practical, he said.

In 1980, the City had the school included on the national Canadian Register of Historic Places. Being registered there doesn’t affect the fate of the building, however — that’s still up to the City if the school district ends its rental deal with the municipality.

“The heritage commission would like it to stay as a school, for sure. When a building gets vacant, you have to keep filling it all the time,” he said.

The building is described as having classic and Romanesque Revival details and is one of the earliest surviving schools in the city — it was the third public school in Kamloops.

City officials didn’t want to comment on any aspect of the school’s future that might make it look as if they were directing the school district’s decision. The board has a limited budget and the City doesn’t want to infringe on its right to make its own choices.

Administrator David Trawin said if the district returns the building to the City, potential uses will be studied at that time.

“That’s why I’m glad they’ve informed us potentially we may get it back two years from now. That gives us some time to figure out,” he said.

The interior, which has old-style cloak spaces behind the classroom chalkboards, could be changed despite the heritage status. That would be allowed, Trawin said.

On the other hand, the museum’s building is in need of a lot of renovations right now and Stuart Wood might be a good location for that.

“I’m just throwing things out. It hasn’t been to council and we haven’t allocated any money for it at this point,” Trawin said.

“But now we can start putting our mind to it. The new council in late 2014, we usually have strategic planning in early 2015 and we’ll look at long-term potential vision for Stuart Wood school.”

The City has been trying to promote more people living in the downtown and having a school nearby is a feature that helps attract families.

But neighbourhoods are always changing, too, Trawin noted.

“I think it’s better in every neighbourhood if you have a mix. But the school district has a limited budget.”

The school district is taking email or written feedback on the possible closure of Stuart Wood and other aspects of school boundary reviews until Dec. 31. Emails can be sent to or dropped off/mailed to the district office to the Enrolment/Boundary review, 1383 9th Ave., Kamloops, B.C., V2C 3X7.

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