Modular classrooms at Victoria’s École Willows School that were locally designed and built. Keri Coles/Oak Bay News

School district will look into building its own portables

Business committee recommends investigating viability of in-house construction of ‘learning studios’

Instead of buying portables, Nanaimo school district could leave construction in the hands of its employees.

The district’s business committee unanimously recommended that the school board direct staff to investigate the viability of ‘learning studios,’ which would be built by staff and possibly also Career Technical Centre students as a hands-on educational experience.

The idea isn’t new. Greater Victoria School District has already piloted in-house construction of portables, saying on its website that it required more space and determined the most cost-effective and long-term solution would be a locally designed and built modular space.

Cupe 606 president Rob Zver, whose union brought the idea to trustees, said it could be a “win-win” for the educational side and maintaining CUPE workers.

Another school district built studios with its workforce and he said the portables were of a better standard, built to the way people wanted them, and when the union looked at it, their costs were probably as much if not less than portables that would come in “because of the cost of transporting them and the rest of the stuff that would go with it.”

Trustee Stephanie Higginson said they’re called learning studios because they aren’t the typical portable. She was in one in Victoria and said they are bright, beautiful spaces.

“If this is financially viable or even just a teeny bit more expensive I just really think they are much nicer learning environment,” she said.

Trustee Tania Brzovic called it a great opportunity to put back work for CUPE staff who have faced a lot of cuts in the last few years and a terrific opportunity for CTC students, while trustee Jamie Brennan, pointed out that most of the district’s bandshells were built by CUPE staff and are still standing – “and that was like 25 years ago.”

“This will make us much more flexible, I think, much more … able to respond to sudden increases in population with facilities that are durable and light rather than those mould-infested portables that we sometimes encounter in our district and other districts,” he said.



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