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New Fernie school funding yet to be secured

Funding for a new school in Fernie wont be allocated from the 2022 budget for new schools
The site where SD5 will be building a new school in Fernie at Whether it is a new elementary school or a new middle school depends on the Ministry of Education. (Image courtesy of Google maps)

The timeline for an additional school in Fernie remains uncertain, with the province tight-lipped on when funding would be allocated.

Funding for a new school to be built in Fernie won’t be coming from the province’s budget for 2022, and the Ministry of Education has made no promises it will come from 2023 either.

In comments sent to The Free Press in response to queries on the timeline for a new school, a ministry spokesperson said that the need for additional school space in Fernie was acknowledged by the ministry, hence the investment of $7.8 million for a new addition at Isabella Dicken for another 80 students.

The province has also shelled out $3.5 million for land in Fernie where a new school will be built, but no funding for the school itself, which might filter through in 2023 if Fernie’s needs are deemed urgent enough.

“Ministry staff are working to review capital plans from all 60 school districts to prioritize projects for Budget 2023,” said the spokesperson.

“We appreciate the work being done by school districts to plan for needs in their communities and we want them to know our government will continue to be there to help support students.”

The ministry has $3.1 billion it will allocate to the province’s 60 school districts over the next three years, with the funds set to be spent on building and expanding schools in response to enrolment growth, as well as upgrade, improve and maintain existing schools.

The spokesperson said that no funding earmarked for schools would be diverted to any other projects or issues, “such as museums, roads or hospitals.”

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They added that the province had spent $2.7 billion “since September 2017” (two months after the NDP Government came to power) in building and expanding schools.

“While we continue to make historic investments in capital funding for new schools and school upgrades, we still have to prioritize requests to fit within the funding envelope in the current budget,” said the spokesperson.

“In doing so, we balance competing priorities including seismic mitigation projects, expansion projects to address overcrowding and also to buy land for future schools.”

The $3.5 million in funding for the new school land in Fernie purchased a large lot in the south of town, on the corner of Montane Parkway and Cokato Rd. The City of Fernie re-zoned the land for school use in October 2020, with the province opening it’s wallet for the land that same year.

READ MORE: City of Fernie gives thumbs-up to re-zone land for future school

READ MORE: Province splashes cash on increased school capacity for Fernie

The local school district (SD5) has recently been canvassing support for it’s preferred build on the site – being a high-capacity middle school, that would see Isabella Dicken become a K-4 school, and Fernie Secondary a 9-12 school, leaving space for the new school to be a 5-8 school.

SD5 will be preparing a business case to send to the ministry before the end of August 2022 for review.

READ MORE: School district envisages high-capacity middle school for Fernie
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