Nanaimo school district successfully made its case for more classrooms at École Hammond Bay.
Nanaimo school district staff announced Wednesday that the B.C. Ministry of Education approved the business case for expansion at the French immersion school, including six additional classrooms, a multipurpose room and special education space.
The school district had originally proposed a two-phased project to the ministry, in which the district would pay to expand an under-sized gym, the province would cover the cost of more classrooms and the work would total $10.7 million. However, earlier this year, Blain said the ministry wasn’t ready to move ahead with its phase and trustees opted to forge ahead with their portion, the gym, with $1.5 million in capital.
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Pete Sabo, Nanaimo school district’s director of planning and operations, said at a education committee meeting Wednesday that the gym will proceed notwithstanding this latest announcement and is expected to be complete in the fall of next school year. It’s not known what the timing will be on the classroom expansion, which will be approximately 1,800 square metres of new space and bring the classroom count up to 15.
Christine Bohm, school principal, told the News Bulletin she was “ecstatic” when she heard the announcement about the ministry approval and said it means a lot to to parent community, students and teachers.
“We do have a need to bring our students into the main building,” said Bohm, who notes there are classes in five “dry” portables, where there’s no running water.
Bringing those students into the school means it can function as a whole school community and have more of a collaborative and cohesive environment, she said, adding the gym, too, will make a big difference because there can be whole-school assemblies. Right now fire restrictions prevent that.
Jennifer Therriault, president of the École Hammond Bay parent advisory council, said that the ministry is coming through with the money means the school will have spaces for collaborative learning and kids will be within the school, not sitting in portables. In cases of an emergency, she said, there currently are five full classrooms out in the middle of the field.
Trustee Steve Rae thanked the minister and current government for recognizing the project is something that needed to be done.
“They’ve worked well with us right from the beginning,” said Rae. “We are real excited about this.”
The school district has to present the ministry with a project definition report by early September, which includes confirmation of the rationale, an outline of options and confirmation of costs. There will also be follow-up meetings with the ministry to confirm the scope, schedule, budget and terms of the project approval, a press release shows.