Hammond Bay gym expansion back on backburner

Parents advocating for a gym addition at Hammond Bay Elementary School will have to wait longer for an answer

Parents advocating for a gym addition at Hammond Bay Elementary School will have to keep waiting for an answer, as the project was referred to the strategic planning process.

District staff are developing a strategic plan for the district, one aspect of which is looking at disposing of surplus properties not required for future educational uses to help finance capital projects.

Nicole Cederberg, a parent who has made several presentations to trustees on the need for the space, said in an e-mail that parents are “profoundly disappointed” in the decision, as it will delay the project even though the school is in dire need of the space.

Members of the Hammond Bay Gym Expansion Committee will meet again in the new year to decide next steps, she said.

Last summer, trustees asked district staff to prepare a plan for the construction of a new gym at Hammond Bay Elementary School and how it could be funded, including applying to the province for funding and using local capital as it becomes available.

Students in the overcrowded French immersion school have waited for years to have the school’s half-size gym replaced with a full-size gym – with the student population growing each year – and parents have been before the school board on several occasions pleading with trustees to fund the project.

A report brought to trustees Wednesday costed two options for the addition – expanding the gym by one third at a cost of $800,000 or including change rooms and a multipurpose room in the expansion for $1.6 million.

Trustees approved a recommendation from staff that the project be referred to the strategic planning process, but not without considerable discussion.

Trustee Jamie Brennan wanted the project to move forward as soon as funding could be found, rather than waiting for staff to finish the strategic plan because the additional gym space is needed immediately.

Outgoing trustee Nelson Allen, who ends an 18-year stint on the board at the end of the month, agreed.

“This issue has been on the table since I’ve been a trustee, I would think,” he said. “Let’s build the bloody thing and get it over with.”

The district would have to fund the project through its annual facilities grant or use ministry-restricted capital, which requires permission from the province, said secretary-treasurer Phil Turin.

Superintendent Dave Hutchinson said his concern with moving forward immediately, rather than waiting for completion of the strategic plan, is that by doing renovation projects piecemeal without looking at the whole picture, the district’s ability to develop a long-term plan that raises the capital needed for significant facilities renewal could be diminished.

“We need to completely renew the system,” he said.

The population of Hammond Bay could also be affected by recommendations contained in the French Immersion review, which trustees receive at a public board meeting next Wednesday, added trustee Carol McNamee.

“How do we know that this gym is going to be inadequate for the population?” she said.