After five years of waiting, School District No. 46 officials this week signed a deal with the provincial government for a new $14.3 million Gibsons Elementary School.
The announcement was made April 24 through the provincial government’s website and via multiple Twitter posts by excited school trustees.
Students had their classes interrupted with the news at about 11 a.m.
“It was going live quickly, so I wanted them to be able to hear it from one source,” said principal Deborah Luporini.
The general mood at the school was one of excitement, although older students were sad to realize they would not be attending classes in the new building, set to open in 2014.
The project was originally announced as a renovation and seismic upgrade; however, a feasibility study in 2007 showed construction of a new, smaller, more energy-efficient school to be more cost-effective.
The school district has been trying ever since to secure the money needed for the new build from the Ministry of Education.
Luporini worked on the matter when she was superintendent of schools, noting she took three trips to Victoria to discuss it during her last six months as superintendent in 2011.
SD46 board chair Silas White said he has been in more advanced discussions with the Ministry lately and hinted at the last school board meeting that an announcement might be coming.
He said trustees were “thrilled” the paperwork was signed this week and building can soon get underway.
The new school will be built somewhere on the property where Gibsons Elementary School currently sits, which is just off School Road.
The exact location will be determined through a design process that will begin shortly.
The new school will have 14 classrooms and be able to accommodate 300 students in grades 1 to 7 and 40 full-day kindergarten students. Currently Gibsons Elementary School serves 281 students in 12 classrooms.
The new school will also have a StrongStart centre and a neighbourhood learning centre “to provide community members with year-round access to additional support services including an early childhood development centre, a health and wellness screening office, a community kitchen and a multi-purpose room,” a press release from the Ministry of Education stated.
Building is expected to start this summer, with completion of the new school predicted for September 2014. Students can expect to move into the new building at the beginning of the 2014 school year, at which time the old school will be torn down.
The current site of the elementary school will eventually become new playing fields for students.
“This new Gibsons Elementary School will provide students and staff with a modern and safe learning environment, and the new StrongStart centre and neighbourhood learning centre will become the centre of the community, providing important services and programs to families, young learners and seniors,” Education Minister George Abbott said after signing the $14.3 million agreement Tuesday.
White also praised the build.
“This new facility will provide some of our district’s youngest minds with a safe and modern area where they can thrive in both an academic and social environment,” he said.
Gibsons Elementary School was built in 1950 using a combination of wood post and beam frame, modular and unreinforced masonry construction.