Planning process underway for new secondary school

The school district announced last week it has begun its master planning process for the Nanaimo District Secondary School site.

The blueprints for a brand-new Nanaimo District Secondary School are just a blank sheet of paper right now, which means anything is possible.

The Nanaimo school district announced last week it has begun its master planning process for the NDSS site. The district’s 10-year facilities plan calls for the high school to be rebuilt in time for the fall semester in 2017.

The school district hired a planning firm, Brook Pooni Associates, and Cornerstone Architecture – both based out of Vancouver – to work with staff over the next eight months to create a vision for a new NDSS.

The school board has already submitted its capital plan to the Ministry of Education, including a request for $62 million for the new secondary school.

“We’re hoping that by doing a comprehensive site development plan, we can convince the ministry to fund it,” said Jamie Brennan, board chairman.

NDSS sits on a larger parcel of school district property and is adjacent to city land and Vancouver Island University, so there are opportunities for creative thinking.

“We really want this to be a true partnership with stakeholders, because we can’t afford to do it all ourselves for one thing, and we want this site to be multi-use in all aspects…” Brennan said. “The potential is quite huge for that site to really serve this community well.”

Vancouver Island University, for example, has long desired a new gymnasium, so a massive construction project right next door is an impetus to try to make that happen, said Dan Hurley, VIU’s executive director of university relations.

“A new athletics facility with a health and wellness component is one of our top capital priorities,” he said. “So certainly it makes a lot of sense for us to be talking to the school district about that particular project.”

He mentioned a trades building as another possible co-operative effort, but stressed that all of these ideas are just preliminary discussions at this stage.

The City of Nanaimo will be another stakeholder in the planning. Tom Hickey, general manager of community services, said the city needs to know how the new NDSS will interface with the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. The municipality would also be interested in talking about opportunities for public amenities at the site.

“I think at the end of the day, it will probably provide benefit to not only NDSS, not only the school board, but the community as a whole,” Hickey said.

The school district is budgeting $47,000 for planning costs. Brennan said he is anticipating some “pretty wide-ranging” discussions over the coming months, and said people shouldn’t jump to any conclusions, “because we’re a long way from having any conclusions.”

But a blank blueprint is a start.

“We’ve sort of been stagnant for some time, since the former facilities plan was turned down by the former board,” Brennan said. “This is tremendously exciting for me because I’d like to see things happen.”