Nanaimo school district looks over Hammond Bay gym plans

NANAIMO – Trustees are taking another look at a project to expand the gymnasium at École Hammond Bay Elementary School.

PE classes at Hammond Bay school continue to be held in cramped quarters, but solutions are being sought.

The Nanaimo school district is taking another look at a project to expand the gymnasium at École Hammond Bay Elementary School in the city’s north end. The school district business committee received an update Wednesday and heard that the project is anticipated to come back to the board table in the new year.

Superintendent John Blain said during the next three to four months, school district staff and consultants will work to re-evaluate and update some of the existing designs and project phasing.

“We want to ensure that all the assumptions made 20 years ago are still valid and that all the current planning requirements are considered,” said Pete Sabo, the school district’s director of planning and operations.

Hammond Bay is one of four elementary schools in the district with undersized gymnasiums, Sabo said. Though it’s often referred to as a half-size gym, the district considers it a two-thirds-size gym. Departure Bay, Fairview and Seaview elementary schools all have three-quarter-size gyms.

Adrienne LeGuyder, chairwoman of Hammond Bay’s parent advisory council, said the small gym limits intramural and league sports, which impacts school spirit. The capacity is also problematic for assemblies and Christmas concerts.

The school district may consider a more extensive renovation at Hammond Bay than just the gymnasium. Sabo said based on projected enrolment, up to three more classrooms could be required moving forward.

“If we choose to just do the gymnasium there, that’s part of the fix, but not all the fix,” Blain said. “If we believe as a district that Hammond Bay is an integral part of our school system and that’s where we want our French immersion, particularly within the north end, then we should maybe look at the opportunity to go in and complete what we need to do so it’s stabilized for the next 20 or 30 years.”

Any decisions will mean financial considerations. The school district has asked for money for Hammond Bay in its most recent capital plan submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education, but won’t receive any response until April or May.

“At this point, they’ve made it clear that it’s not something that they’re willing to fund in the current capital environment,” Sabo said.

Business committee members generally spoke in favour of the gym expansion.

“I’m confident that this board is committed to a decision of some kind being made and more than that, action taken to correct this situation which has gone on for too long,” said Bill Robinson, school trustee.

Scott Kimler, trustee and business committee chairman, said when moving forward with plans and costing, the school district should ensure it continues “a higher-level discussion” about plans in that area of the city.

LeGuyder wasn’t encouraged by the discussion at last Wednesday’s meeting. She said there’s no reason why this coming batch of documents and blueprints won’t just sit on a shelf, as has happened in the past.

“It’s been dragged out for so long that when you hear the words of ‘committee’ or ‘consultation’ or ‘survey,’ it doesn’t really excite us anymore,” she said.