British Columbia

'We're just very grateful': District finds new home for Kamloops students after school fire

After a devastating fire burned down Parkcrest Elementary School in Kamloops last Thursday, officials announced the 350 students along with staff at the school will continue the school year at the nearby George Hilliard Elementary School starting Sept. 16. 

The outpouring of support from our community has been tremendous,' says superintendent

Students of Parkcrest Elementary School will resume classes Sept.16 out of the George Hilliard Elementary School building. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

After a devastating fire burned down Parkcrest Elementary School in Kamloops last Thursday, officials announced the 350 students along with staff at the school will continue the school year at the nearby George Hilliard Elementary School starting on Sept. 16. 

George Hilliard stopped operating as an elementary school a few years ago but is home to the Twin Rivers Education Centre, an alternative education program, and Four Directions Secondary School, a program which teaches students about Indigenous culture and education.

Both have been given new locations in the community, said school district superintendent Alison Sidow.

"We're just very grateful and thankful to our community for all the support that they have lent us during this tragic event," she said.

"When you pull together and when you show courage and compassion for one another it's amazing what you can pull off in 72 hours."

Students at Parkcrest Elementary School will be attending classes at George Hilliard Elementary School. The Twin Rivers Education Centre and Four Directions Secondary School that currently operate there, are being relocated. (Google Maps)

Sidow expects that it will take about two years to rebuild Parkcrest, and said she has heard a commitment from both the minister and deputy minister of education that this will be a priority in the province.

"We're going to rebuild Parkcrest Elementary School, and that school will be bigger and better than ever."

Parents 'extremely happy,' says board chair

Parents of students at Parkcrest are relieved that their kids will be staying together in one building, said school board chair Kathleen Karpuk.

"Overall, parents were just extremely happy that all the students are together. They're within the neighborhood of Brocklehurst, so the kids aren't going to be going very far," said Karpuk.

"Generally [it's been an] extremely, extremely positive response from the Parkcrest parents about that move, understanding that we're going to have hiccups because we don't have quite enough space."

More than 30 firefighters responded to the fire at Parkcrest Elementary School on Sept. 6, 2019. The school is believed to have been completely destroyed. (Doug Herbert/CBC)

George Hilliard is a smaller school than Parkcrest and will most likely require a few portables.

NorKam Secondary will need 12 portables to accommodate the students from Twin Rivers Education Centre that are moving there, and students with Four Directions Secondary School will be going to the former Happyvale Elementary school building.

The Big Little Science Centre that is currently housed at Happyvale is actively looking for a new location, said Karpuk.

Community support

The cause of the fire is being investigated, and Kamloops Fire Rescue is still working to put out spot fires in the building.

Parkcrest, which was built in the '60s, had an alarm but no sprinklers. A teacher and two custodial workers who were inside when the fire broke out last Thursday all escaped safely.

"It may take some time, and those guys will be working very hard to determine the cause," assistant fire chief Steve Robinson told Daybreak Kamloops' Jenifer Norwell.

"Some of our people have kids that go to that school, so we at Kamloops Fire Rescue feel the loss as well as people in the community."

Most of the desks and school supplies were lost in the fire. Karpuk said they are working to source new equipment as fast as they can. 

More than 15 organizations have offered services to help displaced students and staff. The Kamloops Art Gallery is providing free day camps for kids, Tumbleweed Toys has created a Parkcrest teacher registry to help teachers who lost supplies, and The New Heights Autism Support Society is offering daycare for children with behaviour challenges. 

"The outpouring of support from our community has been tremendous," said Sidow.

After last week's devastating fire, more than 15 local organizations have offered support and services for students, familes and staff at the school. 10:35

With files from Jenifer Norwell, Doug Herbert and Daybreak Kamloops


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