Opinion » Editorial


Why should a court being asked to decide where students go to school? On Thursday, School District No. 48 was to appear in court in Vancouver with its complaint against the Village of Pemberton, seeking the right to occupy the new Pemberton high school. We didn't know the court's decision by press time, but one has to wonder at the logic of taking such a matter to court in the first place. There are two issues to be addressed in this matter: the short-term problem of where students will be attending classes on Sept. 5, and the long-term problem of how to finance the upgrade of Pemberton's sewage system so that the new high school can be hooked up to it. Legal action is unlikely to resolve either. Pemberton's sewage problems have been know to school board officials since construction began on the new high school. Village and board officials believed the federal/provincial infrastructure program would provide the financing to upgrade the sewage system, but a couple of months ago it became clear the program had run out of funds. The problem this created for Pemberton and the school board has been well publicized since the middle of July, yet the board went ahead with plans not only to move portables and equipment to the new school, but to make the old high school difficult to use. In effect, the board has managed to manoeuvre itself into a position where it has no short-term option but to go to court, since the old high school can't be used as a temporary school facility. The Ministry of Environment has indicated it might be willing to relax sewage discharge limits temporarily if a permanent solution to the problem is forthcoming, but even if the money for the upgrade of the sewage treatment facility was suddenly available it would take months to build, so a short-term solution is still needed. Meanwhile, Pemberton’s lack of a backup plan to fund the sewage plant expansion is a problem many years in the making. Pemberton has seen significant growth in recent years but it has failed to plan for that growth and the infrastructure it requires. Sewage is not the only problem. Parts of the valley have been without a reliable water supply for years. The old high school, in fact, was frequently given boil-water orders. Fundamental to the infrastructure problem is the fact the village's tax base has not kept pace with growth. A more immediate problem, however, is where students are going to attend classes on Sept. 5. Why that matter should go to a provincial court for a decision is puzzling.