The former South Slocan schoolhouse, built in 1929 and seen here in 2000, will be torn down next year. Photo: Greg Nesteroff

The former South Slocan schoolhouse, built in 1929 and seen here in 2000, will be torn down next year. Photo: Greg Nesteroff

Old South Slocan schoolhouse slated for demolition

The 91-year-old schoolhouse will be taken down next year

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative reporter

A building that’s stood as a landmark in South Slocan for nearly a century is coming to the end of its days.

The South Slocan Commission of Management has approved a plan to demolish the 91-year-old South Slocan School building in the community.

“It was pretty hard,” says Ruby Payne, the chair of the commission. “A lot of us have pretty long histories with that building.”

Built in 1929, the old school building saw generations of children from the area go through its doors, including Payne, who attended the first daycare there. It was purchased by the Regional District of Central Kootenay for the community’s use in 1987. That purchase also secured the source of the community’s water system, which is on the same property.

“The building has been kept alive from that point based on a volunteer system, and by really small rental fees,” says Payne. “It really fell on the back of a small, small number of volunteers to keep it going.”

The building was rented out to various groups and individuals over the years, but only made a fraction of the money in rent needed to maintain the structure. And the community hasn’t been able to underwrite the needed repairs.

“Over the years the building has come to the end of its life,” says Payne. “The amount of work it would take to get it back to ship-shape or rebuild is significant. The community, which comprises 51 households – a really small tax base – had this burden of helping make the decision.”

“The issue is that the facility rental is too little to upkeep the building,” explains Joe Chirico, the general manager of community services for the RDCK. “The building has only lasted this long due to the tremendous efforts of local volunteers. Covering operating costs is a fraction of the cost of continual reinvestment.”

At its Nov. 24 meeting, the commission of management, a quasi-council for the community of South Slocan, voted in favour of demolishing the structure.

“They truly are not in a position to take any risks,” adds Chirico. “The water system is a heavy burden on their taxes and through the commission we are trying to remove as much risk as possible while ensuring the water system and easy access to it and the infrastructure is preserved.”

Unable to save the building, Payne says the community will be sad to see it go.

“There’s lots of people who went to school there as children, took a dance class, went to daycare … it was difficult because a lot of people feel strong ties to it,” she says. “But it just feels like we were out of options.

“Nobody is feeling very good about the decision, but we’re also kind of relieved to be in a place where we can make one, because it’s been a conversation that’s been taking place for years and years now,” she added. “So there is some relief in the resolution of it.”

The property is also the site of the community’s water plant, and protecting the water supply has also factored into the decision to remove the structure.

Demolition could begin as early as the spring or summer of 2021, says Chirico. It will be paid for with a small reserve fund the Commission of Management kept for the building.

There’s no discussion yet about what will be done with the property after that.

“Our discussion with the commission … is that we need to get over this hurdle, have the RDCK water service identify critical infrastructure and possible new routes for infrastructure, and then the community should brainstorm low-maintenance ideas,” he says.

The current tenants, including a daycare, have been aware of the impending decision for years and are making plans to move.

– Valley Voice