Pending approval from B.C.’s Ministry of Education, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools proposes Woodlands Secondary School be used as a “swing space” to temporarily house students during seismic upgrades at Cilaire Elementary School. (News Bulletin file)

Woodlands proposed to house students during Cilaire seismic upgrades

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ plan awaits ministry of education approval

With Nanaimo Ladysmith school district anticipating approval for Cilaire Elementary School seismic upgrades, Woodlands Secondary will temporarily house students.

The district business committee is recommending design and construction management contracts to Herold Engineering Ltd. and Bradley Shuya Architect Inc. for respective work at Cilaire and Woodlands worth just under $12 million, pending project approval from the B.C. Ministry of Education.

Work at Cilaire would include electrical upgrades and reinforcing load bearing walls, joists and frames to decrease the school’s seismic risk, Kelsey Bakewell, district facilities planning manger, said at the committee meeting Wednesday.

“We’re also looking at an enhanced life safety upgrade for the gym,” Bakewell said. “The idea behind that is to increase the chances of occupying the gym immediately following a seismic event … This gym could be used as an emergency centre or something like that. We’re also looking, wherever possible, to make improvements, such as [gender-based analysis plus] and inclusivity as often as possible within the scope of the work.”

Woodlands, which also houses district learning alternatives program, would be renovated in order to serve as a “swing space,” according to Bakewell.

“The (Woodlands) renovation is going to include classroom and washroom conversions,” said Bakewell. “We’re going to be adding some elementary play structures. Obviously, there’s going to be some different security, fencing, access, lighting. We have look at upgrading the [public address] and fire alarm system and we are also looking at busing to Woodlands.”

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Greg Keller, trustee, wondered if it was wise to invest in renovating a high school for elementary student usage when other schools are available.

“I really do want to support and help us move forward on the Cilaire seismic upgrades, but at the same time, I need to be able to understand why we need to be converting space when we already have elementary space,” said Keller.

Brian Hackwood, assistant director of planning and operations, said the district was looking at closed spaces in the area.

“We’d be looking at closed [schools] so we’re talking Dufferin and Rutherford … Woodlands has the space. Dufferin is currently not full, but it’s currently occupied.”

Rutherford could potentially be a swing space for Pleasant Valley Elementary seismic upgrades, with more details coming at a future meeting, said Bakewell.

Numerous trustees wondered about having elementary school students and high school students in the same space and Tim Davie, deputy superintendent, said there would be separation.

“Woodlands is U-shaped [with] three main wings attached to the school and there’s a separation from the proposed swing space and the wing that the learning alternative programs are attached to,” said Davie. “The other aspect here in terms of the courtyard in the centre of Woodlands, the proposed classrooms that we’re looking at are predominantly on the Strathmore [Street] side of Woodlands. So there wouldn’t be disruption coming to these classrooms or any elementary school.”

The recommendations are expected go before the school board on Feb. 26 for approval.

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