With an expanded gym at École Hammond Bay Elementary complete, the B.C. Ministry of Education has reaffirmed money to add 12 new classrooms at north Nanaimo school.
In April, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools and the previous school board announced the ministry approved a business case for expansion at the French immersion school, including the now-completed gym expansion, paid for by the school district for $1.5 million. At the time, six new classrooms, a multipurpose room and space for special education were slated for work estimated at $10.7 million, but at the gym ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming announced $16-18 million and additional classrooms.
Fleming said the figure would be “sharpened during the tendering process” and a request for proposals is anticipated for the spring. There is a lot of merit to the project, he said, as there is a lot of over-crowding at the school. If the announcement hadn’t been made, Fleming said there would have been more portables and the announcement eliminates the need for portables.
“We want to begin this project quickly, both because we need the classroom space now, but also to manage any construction cost escalations to bring that project in on budget and on time,” said Fleming. “The sooner the better that we get going on it.”
Pete Sabo, school district director of planning operations, said the project is at the end of the project development stage and the next stage is to sign a capital project agreement with the ministry. The design concept is worked out and the district will move directly into getting working drawings. Capacity will more than double, he said.
“The existing school is approximately 224 students for occupancy level and the new school will be over 500 student occupancy … one of the key points to the expansion is that we will have an additional 20 kindergarten student intake,” said Sabo. “Currently we have 40 student intake every year. We’re going to expand that to 60 and then we have the capacity to have those students follow through all the grades.”
Charlene McKay, school board chairwoman, welcomed the news.
“It’s going to be great,” said McKay. “We know that the demand for French immersion is high and so we have the opportunity to add some more spaces and help build up that French immersion culture in our school district.”
Fleming said work is set to begin in 2019 and work is estimated to be complete by September 2021.