Copper Ridge residents discuss new school

Copper Ridge knows it’s getting a new school, it just doesn’t know what type. So parents have been asked what they want in a recent…

Copper Ridge knows it’s getting a new school, it just doesn’t know what type.

So parents have been asked what they want in a recent survey conducted by BC-based Hold Fast Consultants.

A high school was favoured by 24 per cent of respondents. An elementary school was championed by 22 per cent of parents participating in the questionnaire.

But a survey doesn’t guarantee you get what you want.

The Falcon Drive land dedicated to the new school project is too small for a high school.

So a high school in Copper Ridge is a long shot.

The closest site for a high school is near the Canada Games Centre, Lee Kubica, superintendent of schools, said during a public meeting at Elijah Smith Elementary School on Wednesday night.

The meeting was staged by Hold Fast, which has been handed a $69,000 government contract to gather information about the kind of school parents want.

About 25 parents attended the meeting.

Elijah Smith Elementary is at capacity, and 14 students in its catchment area are bused to Takhini Elementary.

But Elijah Smith’s population pressure is rare.

Almost every other Whitehorse school is running below capacity.

Some are half empty, according to Hold Fast’s studies.

“What I want to do is make sure we don’t end up with a bunch of schools that are half occupied, and that we utilize our public infrastructure the best we can,” said Dave Beaudoin, whose child attends Elijah Smith.

“I want to make sure that we use the schools to 75 per cent of their capacity because of heating costs and operation and maintenance costs.”

The demographics are changing. There are more adults older than 50 in the community, and fewer children.

It’s a trend happening across Canada.

Of the 90 people who answered the Hold Fast survey, 40 respondents would send their children to a new Copper Ridge school.

Out of those, 23 of them already had children enrolled at Elijah Smith School.

At the meeting, some parents were concerned a new school would diminish Elijah Smith’s cultural diversity.

“Elijah Smith is a very good school with a lot of First Nations programming,” said Jessie Dawson, Kwanlin Dun citizen and Elijah Smith school council member.

“Being on school council here, it’s like we’re one big family; everybody knows each other.”

Social events involve the whole community. People from Kwanlin Dun, Copper Ridge, Granger and other communities “attend all the activities here.”

Some parents suggested building a new elementary school on Falcon and turning Elijah Smith into a high school.

But that’s not possible because elementary schools are difficult to convert to high schools, said Kubica.

The possibility of expanding Elijah Smith School also came up.

“When I go door to door, I find that it’s mixed, there’s a lot of interest in an elementary school but there’s also significant interest in a secondary school,” said leader of the Yukon Liberal party Arthur Mitchell who attended the meeting.

“It’s been clear tonight that the particular land set aside won’t accommodate a secondary school.

“There has to be another site looked at if there’s going to be a secondary school and I think it would have been better had that information been included in the survey,” Mitchell said.

“People were answering the question as to what they might like, but it may not be feasible.”