After what has been a long and developing relationship between School District 20 and the Blueberry Creek Community Society (BCCS) the school board finally released to the public Monday night that they have sold the Blueberry Creek Community School to the society.
The board released an in camera motion dated October 27, 2014 stating: “That the Board sell the building and land to Blueberry Creek Community Society for $1 with caveats regarding first right of refusal for the repurchase of the land and/or building for $1 and a non-competitive clause if and only if the Minister of Education approves.”
They also released a motion dated April 13, 2015 stating: “That any legal or other costs related to the disposal of Blueberry Creek site be the responsibility of the Blueberry Creek Society.”
The release included a statement from the board reporting that negotiations were completed successfully, the documents have been signed and that the new owner has officially registered all titles. Although the vote was not unanimous, the statement concluded with: “We wish Blueberry Creek Community Society all the best with their new asset.”
The BCCS has had a presence in the school since 1997 when they became the first community school in Castlegar and began renting a portion of the building. In 2002 the school district ceased to use the property as a school, instead using it as a place for support staff and district resources.
When the district removed these last assets from the building in 2012, BCCS then began to lease the entire building and site. At that time they took on the responsibility for the building, maintenance, operations and utilities and began negotiating with the goal of a future sale.
Ongoing negotiations, public input and persistence by BCCS led to the sale of the school becoming an issue in the last school board elections, with the majority of candidates for the Castlegar area going on record in favour of a future purchase.
Rebecca Mc Donnell, Environmental Director, and Community Liaison for BCCS was at the school board meeting for the official public release of the sale information. “We are thrilled,” said Mc Donnell. “We’re delighted now that the public can be informed about the decision the board made. We couldn’t be happier that our society is going to be able to do what we do for our community.”
Mc Donnell acknowledges that there is hard work ahead to care for and update the aging building. “It is exciting and a bit nerve wracking. There is a huge responsibility on our society,” she said. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but we are excited to step up and do it.”
The BCCS will continue to offer the same programs it has in the past including day care, preschool, Strong Start, after school care, summer camps, environmental programs, seniors programs and exercise programs.