Jennifer Therriault, left, Christine Bohm and Justin Mark, respective parent advisory chairwoman, principal and vice-principal for École Hammond Bay Elementary School, show the new section of the school gym. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s École Hammond Bay school unveils new gym expansion

Larger gym can accommodate home games and assemblies

Volleyball and basketball players at École Hammond Bay Elementary School are now able to play home games on home court.

The school’s gym used to be undersized, with overlapping basketball keys and a capacity for 312 people, and the Hammond Bay Hornets had to play home games on the road. Previous efforts to expand the gym languished, but in 2018, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board green-lit a plan to expand the gym. Work began in June and saw an addition to the gym and new lighting that was completed this past December and can now accommodate 509.

Justin Mark, school vice-principal, said home-court advantage was impossible previously.

“We weren’t able to host proper volleyball games because the court size wasn’t regulation, so students would almost be hitting their arms when they were serving and so now we’re able to host two games at the same time. The same with basketball … the three-point lines would touch,” said Mark.

“Everything would overlap, three steps and you’d be at the next basket,” added Christine Bohm, principal.

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Jennifer Therriault, longtime parent advisory council chairwoman, and her group had been long advocating for a full-sized gym. There were many false starts, but it is good to finally see their efforts bearing fruit, she said. She’s been involved in the school for 13 years, and PAC for eight, and there were times she didn’t think it would happen.

“I came onboard when my daughter started in kindergarten with a group that had already been established as a small gym committee to try and advocate for a large gym at this site and that happened previously for years as well,” said Therriault. “So over the years, certainly the excitement and willingness to advocate for that ebbed and flowed because parents kind of give up and as people have been here for five years and seen nothing, think, ‘Oh, is it even worth it?’ but we persevered. For me, I knew at some point, it would happen.

“The hope was that I would see it, that one of my children would see it – which happened – which is really awesome, but the most exciting part is that the kids that are in kindergarten this year have no idea. Their reality will be what everybody else has.”

Bohm said it is great to finally use the gym and the children are enjoying it.

“We had a Christmas concert and we were able to put 90 students in here performing at the same time and our gym was full of parents,” said Bohm.

The gym cost $1.5 million, according to the school district. An unveiling ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 24.

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