Parents plead for gym expansion at Hammond Bay school

NANAIMO – Hammond Bay Elementary's parent advisory council is imploring the school board to consider funding for a bigger school gym.

Ecole Hammond Bay Elementary’s parent advisory council is imploring the Nanaimo school board to consider funding for a bigger school gym.

Jennifer Therriault, the school’s parent advisory council chairwoman, told school trustees at Thursday’s budget consultation meeting that the “half-size” gym has a maximum capacity of 312 people, yet current enrolment is at 347 students. Requests have been made for many years to numerous school boards, she said.

“We can’t host games or tournaments at our school,” said Therriault. “Kids aren’t learning plays because basically, if you make two passes, then you’re out the other side of the gym.”

Therriault pointed to the basketball keys, which she said are “inverted and overlapped.”

Additionally, assemblies cannot be held, as the student body and school staff aren’t able to fit in the space, according to Therriault’s presentation. There are also safety concerns, as there is no adequate interior space for people to safely meet in the event of an emergency.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, agreed that the school needs a better gym and said it will be a priority as budget discussions progress. However, while Therriault said the advisory council doesn’t want funding at the expense of money designated elsewhere, Rae said that isn’t possible, due to lack of funding from the provincial government.

Rae suggested money could come from approximately $2.5 million in money that was designated for the Cedar Community Secondary School conversion project, which is currently on hold.

“I think what we need to do, is we need to figure out what’s happening with Cedar first, because that’s where a lot of our [annual facilities grant] funds are tied up right now,” Rae said. “So once we determine what happens in Cedar, it will become crystal clear, but I can tell you, [a gym] is a top priority for this board.”

The school district’s 2015-16 budget is expected to be adopted by May 5 and submitted to the B.C. Ministry of Education the following day.