Another $19.5M approved for fire-ravaged Okanagan school

Province antes up again for new Oliver high school after first rebuild ended in disaster. Doors should open in fall 2013.

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes and MLAs Bill Barisoff and John Slater in front of drawings for the new South Okanagan Secondary School. The province announced Friday it would provide $19.5 to rebuild the school

Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes and MLAs Bill Barisoff and John Slater in front of drawings for the new South Okanagan Secondary School. The province announced Friday it would provide $19.5 to rebuild the school

The provincial government has anted up for improvements to South Okanagan Secondary School. Again.

Last September, the school district was $25 million into a $30-million overhaul of SOSS when a fire destroyed about two-thirds of the buildings on site and caused extensive damage to what was left. The $5 million remaining from the original funding has been spent on portable classrooms and clean-up.

On Friday, Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater announced the province would kick in an additional $19.5 million to build out what will be an entirely new school by the time its expected completion date rolls around for the class of 2014 to begin its senior year.

“It’s unfortunate, but we knew we were never going to get it built for next fall anyway, so we decided to spend some time (and) make sure it’s done right,” Slater said.

Plans for the latest version of SOSS show an ultra-modern facility capped off with a curvy, stand-alone, 397-seat community theatre that will replace the Frank Venables Auditorium, which was destroyed in the fire.

A new wing of the school will contain classrooms, offices, and a library.

The fire did spare one new wing of the school that houses the gymnasium, cafeteria, atrium lounge and science labs, although four months of restoration work was required to remediate smoke and water damage.

“It’s been a difficult year… but it’s been a good sense of community as well,” said Okanagan Similkameen School District superintendent Bev Young.

While the classrooms, library and offices are expected to be ready for students and staff for fall 2013, Young said the theatre and a Neighbourhood Learning Centre will likely take a few additional months to complete.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Town of Oliver are contributing $2.3 million towards the theatre.