For 16 years the only grade school in Trail has been in Glenmerry.
The 251-seat school was built in 1959 for children living in Glenmerry. It was never intended as a mainstay for all elementary students living in Trail.
This year alone, there’s 370 students in K-Grade 7 enrolled. The school’s capacity is 389, including 138 seats added via portables, so the facility is running at 95 per cent capacity.
So after 59 years of housing countless students and running at-or-over capacity since 2002, understandably the elementary school is wearing out and ready to retire.
Granted the structure was renovated twice in the past two decades and six new portables were installed to deal with the growing student body, there are ongoing maintenance issues, not unheard of in any well-used aging structure. It’s those progressing problems that prompted Glenmerry Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) to add voices to their cause – which is to build a new school.
“Being over populated is a very good problem, it means our community is growing,” says Lisa Babcock, Glenmerry PAC chair. “However, as wonderful as it is, the infrastructure in no longer adequate for our need.”
As an example, Babcock described the power capacity to the portables.
“We have maxed out the power grid for portables and will soon be retrofitted, which means we lose space for our support services,” Babcock said. “The school has done amazing things with limited resources, our hope is to help them by advocating for a better space for our school community.”
She says the district can keep making short term fixes, but that will not solve the problem long term.
“As the only elementary school in the Trail city limits, we need our community to help advocate for a better space for our children,” Babcock said. “We would like to see our principal and teachers having adequate resources to support students.”
The group met with Trail council on school grounds Monday to give city officials a firsthand look at PAC’s primary issues with the Carnation Drive locale, and the interim fixes parents would like to see.
“We were pleased with the response of the City of Trail council concerning our main issues with the safety of our children,” Babcock said.
With students being bused in or driven to school as well as those who walk, the sidewalk and parking around Glenmerry school have become increasingly congested.
Babcock says the situation has been a concern for a number of years.
“There is currently an area around the perimeter of the school grounds that serves as an unpaved sidewalk,” she explained. “We have found that this area is used as parking for parents who are dropping off and picking up students, creating a very hazardous situation. There is nowhere to walk and the parked vehicles create blind spots for the students to get lost in.”
In the winter the area becomes unusable as the snow piles up.
“Our hope was that by approaching council and the school board we could see this area paved and maintained throughout the year,” Babcock told the Trail Times. “We are hoping that a solution to the safety concerns mentioned can be found. We are awaiting further communication from both parties on how the issue will be dealt with.”
The primary concern, however, is the school’s over population, Babcock continued.
“As we stand right now, we will be growing another division next year with an enrollment of 386 children (18 divisions),” she explained. “We are under the provinces ‘radar’ but need to get our voices heard to get in the ‘queue’. Once we are in the ‘queue’ we should start to see some movement towards the rebuild.”
Glenmerry PAC will also be contacting MLA Katrine Conroy to help advance the cause, Babcock added.
“We are also hoping that parents and citizens of Trail will write letters to Rob Fleming, Minister of Education on our school’s behalf.”
Replacing Trail’s sole elementary school has been a district priority for a number of years, says Superintendent Bill Ford.
“In a nutshell, Glenmerry is certainly at the top of the list from our perspective in terms of advocating for a replacement,” Ford said. “That’s been the case for quite awhile now, but how that works is not a district process, it is a Ministry of Education process.”
The school district continues to advocate to the ministry and paint a picture for the powers that be.
“Then that picture gets put up against all the others from across the province because the ministry only has “x” number of dollars to go around,” he said. “In our local school district, Glenmerry is at the top of the list and we think that’s a major priority – but when you put it up against all the other schools in all the other districts across the province, it doesn’t come out on top.”
Nevertheless, the district will continue to advocate for a replacement.
“In the meantime we find space for kids, and we continue to make sure it’s running as efficiently and as effectively as it can,” Ford added. “But the school is old and it was never designed for the number of kids that it is currently housing.”