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Hammond Bay gym expansion languishes

Hammond Bay Elementary School parent Nicole Cederberg was unapologetic about sounding like a broken record as she stood before Nanaimo school trustees for the fourth time in five years on Wednesday  asking for gym upgrades.

"We are asking again and hopefully for the last time … will School District 68 provide local funding for the Hammond Bay gym enlargement?" said Cederberg. "Here we are now more than five years later with no change to our circumstances."

While the school has about 350 students and enrolment continues to rise each year, the half-size gym is designed to accommodate 200 students, which means the school struggles to meet daily physical activity requirements, or host school-wide events.

"Our teams travel for every game because no one will come here," said Cederberg, who has coached basketball at the school for three years.

Enrolment has grown by about 80 students over the past five years, moving the school's situation from frustrating to desperate to shameful, she said. And while the board has consistently supported the upgrade, it has not led to concrete action.

An attempt by trustees to use local restricted capital funds for the expansion, which staff estimated would cost $800,000 in 2007, was denied by the Education Ministry last year because the district had not finished its long-range facilities plan.

Trustees voted down the previous plan and were working on a new one at the time.

The new plan, approved last October, calls for a review of the French immersion program, which is delivered at Hammond Bay.

Carol McNamee, school board vice-chairwoman, said the district's French immersion programs are stuffed to the seams – especially Hammond Bay and Davis Road elementary schools – and she hopes the review will contain ideas on how to deal with the over-enrolment in the French programs and under-enrolment in other schools.

The board will receive the results of the French immersion review in September.

Trustee Jamie Brennan said a solution is long overdue.

"You're right, it's been a snail's pace and it's unacceptable," he said. "This board needs to work to get this done quickly."

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