City council deferred making a final decision on what to do with historic King George V Elementary (KGV) School at their meeting, Monday, in order to meet with B.C. Minister of Education Shirley Bond.
Community Heritage Commission chairman Jo Graber requested the two-week reprieve in hopes that some provincial funding may be available to preserve the school, built in 1922, as a heritage site.
However, the outlook for saving the school is not positive. Many councillors were concerned about the $2 million to $4 million estimated cost to restore the building and the lack of an identified user for the building.
“I came to this wanting to save KGV, I have some personal history there… but I’m not convinced we can do that in a cost-effective way,” councillor Don Bassermann said. “At this point in time, I look to salvage pieces of KGV actual pieces and intellectual pieces.”
Bassermann said the history of the school and the site could be preserved without preserving the whole building.
“I have a great deal of difficulty with the issue. I just don’t see the kind of heritage in it that others do,” Mayor Colin Kinsley said.
“[And] I’m very frightened of the condition it is in. This would be a gaping hole that would take buckets of money to fill. I don’t see any reason ”
Even if the capital funding could be found, he said, a tenant or end-user would have to be found to pay the operating costs on the building.
Currently Prince George School District 57 is looking to use the site to build a replacement for Duchess Park Secondary School.
The school district has delayed developing plans for the site while the Heritage Commission worked on a potential plan to preserve the site.
“I don’t see any reason to keep the school board delayed any longer,” Kinsley said.
Graber said he was not surprised by the decision of council.
His objective going into the meeting was to buy some small amount of time to fully explore the political options, he said. However, he said he didn’t believe two weeks was enough time to fully explore the potential for an end-user of the site.
“We want to, above all, save this building,” he said. “Money shouldn’t be the only issue.”
Graber said saving the facade or some other portion of the building is second-place to preserving the school intact.
He also said some members of council seem to have already passed judgment on the feasibility of restoring the building before a complete study has been done.
If the building is torn down, he added, it’s history should at least be preserved in a meaningful way in the area.