Conayt to offer trades programs in old middle school building
Since the Conayt Friendship Society took hold of the old Coquihalla Middle School building in October, stakeholders with the group have been deciding what to do with the 40,000-square-foot facility.
Now, the society is looking to use the building to teach certified trades programs, Conayt’s executive director George Girouard told City of Merritt council at a regular meeting last month.
“We are moving forward with a lot of decisions,” he said, noting he is seeking the assistance of the provincial and federal governments. “A few in the industry are already on side with us.”
He said the initiative would improve the community by offering training in fields in need of workers, and discussions have included Canadian National Railway and FortisBC.
“This looks for a 90 to 95 per cent employment rate,” he said. “This will help bridge the gap to employment.”
Developments in discussions about extraction of oil in northern B.C. have helped structure the society’s ideas, he added. “We have to take this active role.”
Girouard said Merritt’s Nicola Valley Institute of Technology and Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops could be involved.
“We’re looking at changing the dynamics of the community for the positive,” he said. “This is taking leadership and making communities more effective.”
The city’s chief administrative officer, Matt Noble, commended the society for the ideas and encouraged them to work more with the city.
“It sounds like a great opportunity for the community,” he said. “We are delighted that you have contacted professionals and the federal government and we encourage you to contact the [city’s] planning department.”
A timeline for when the programs would be offered hasn’t been set out.
CMS was closed in June after Nicola-Similkameen School District 58 was confronted by decreased provincial funding and fewer students. Funding protection dropped by 1.5 percentage points to 98.5 per cent.
The school district faced a further challenge from the Ministry of Education’s decision to only cover costs of the equivalent of each course, rather than each student.
The decision to close the school resulted in a change from a system where Merritt students attended elementary school from kindergarten to Grade 6, then CMS in Grades 6 to 8, and then high school from Grades 9 to 12.
The new system is from kindergarten to Grade 7 and then from Grade 8 to 12.