Nicomen Island Elementary today. Kevin Mills / Mission Record.

Nicomen Island Elementary today. Kevin Mills / Mission Record.

Close? Sell? Tear Down? The decisions behind Mission’s defunct schools

Fate of several unused schools still to be decided

Nicomen Island Elementary has sat unoccupied for over a decade, waiting for the day it will be demolished and the land handed back over to the province.

Up until a few years ago the Mission School District maintained the building, but stopped once the province handed down the verdict that the land would revert back to them.

Today, nature has largely reclaimed the derelict building – plants climb up the outer walls and swarms of mosquitoes attack those who venture too close.

The century-old schoolhouse was one of four schools considered for sale by the district four years ago, and what exactly will happen to two of those four properties is still undecided.

Nicomen Island Elementary after the Flood of 1948. Photo courtesy of Mission Community Archives.

Stave Falls, the newest school, was reopened in September, 2019. District administrators are recommending the school board keep Durieu Elementary (closed 2011) for a future re-opening, and the province has given the school district permission to sell Cade Barr Elementary (closed 1980) – but no buyer apart from city council has showed any interest, according to Wilson.

RELATED: Four Mission schools could be sold

The decisions on what to do with defunct school buildings are largely a “cost benefit analysis,” said Angus Wilson, superintendent of the district.

“The issue is whether or not there is growth in the school’s [nearby] community,” Wilson said. “At some point the school district looks and goes, ‘Boy, we’re down to you know 30 kids, 20 kids – we need to think about doing something else.’

District decisions are based on the recommendations of the superintendent and secretary treasurer, but the school board makes the final decision.

The district receives grant money from the province for having an open school, but the province cuts off those funds when a school’s population falls below nine students, Wilson said.

“Once you close the school, you have to think, ‘Well, is it going to be open again in the future? Are we a growing community or a declining community?’” he said. “When you start seeing the numbers drop every year you have to start planning, there’s a process with the public … But at the end of the day, the board gets to make the decision.”

There’s a another layer of decision-making as well – the province has give the final go-ahead.

“The provincial government has a lot of say in this because, after all, it’s the taxpayers money.” Wilson said. “They can look at the facility and go, ‘Our demographics show that your city is growing … Don’t come begging for another school from us. You can open this one again.’”

And the province likes to re-purpose unused buildings for other programs, according to Wilson.

For instance, Nicomen Island Elementary initially closed in 1996, but was being used for childcare space into the 2000s.

“Is there potential for another agency to use it that is in the provincial sphere?” Wilson said. “They love that sort of stuff.”

The money received from any sale of the property is dependent on how the district originally acquired the land.

In the case of Nicomen Island Elementary, the property is “Crown Grant Land” meaning it was a direct grant to the district by the province close to 100 years ago, so the district would not see any profit.

“The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development will be solely responsible for any subsequent transactions related to this Crown land property, including discussions with First Nations,” the Ministry of Education responded by email. “Because this process is not a sale, the district will not receive compensation.”

For other school properties, the district could potentially use the sale money to fund other programs and projects, according to Wilson.

“Some of the land we get to own ourselves and we can disposes of it as we choose,” he said. “We can sell the building … take that money and put it towards other stuff [with some limitations].”

Cade Barr Elementary was closed in 1980. Kevin Mills / Mission Record.

Durieu Elementary closed in 2011. Kevin Mills / Mission Record.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An inmate at Mission Institution has had his request to reverse a transfer from Mission’s minimum-security prison denied. / Kevin Mills File Photo
Serial rapist’s bid to go back to Mission’s minimum-security prison denied, after alleged fixation on 2 female staff

Clifford Barry Howdle went on violent sexual-assault spree in 1999 while out on day parole

Edwin S Richards Elementary. Google Maps street-view image.
COVID-19 exposure at Edwin S. Richards Elementary in Mission

Parents received letter on Dec. 3, advising of exposure on Nov. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 23

Joe Fast of Abbotsford is on dialysis four days a week and has issued a public plea for a kidney donor. (Submitted photo)
Abbotsford man with 5% kidney function is desperately in need of a live donor

Joe Fast has a rare blood type and hasn’t yet been able to find a transplant match

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
COVID-19 outbreaks continue at 2 Abbotsford care homes

Tabor Home and Menno Home still battling the virus

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Pickleball game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 8, 2020. B.C.’s public health restrictions for COVID-19 have been extended to adult team sports, indoors and outside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
711 more COVID-19 cases detected in B.C. Friday

‘Virus is not letting up and neither can we’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Students from COVID hotspots travel to Vancouver Island for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix wears a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19, during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, August 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PHSA bought faulty respirators; spent money on catering, renovations: Dix

Such spending included ‘unnecessary, unbudgeted renovations’ to the authority’s headquarters in Vancouver

Most Read