The Ministry of Education, in an unexpected move, granted $9.2 million this week to School District No. 46 (SD46) to tear down Gibsons Elementary School (GES) and build a new school. "This is great news. We are very pleased to see that the funding is not just for renovations, but for an entirely new school," superintendent of schools Stewart Hercus said. Gibsons, according to the board of trustees, is lucky to be getting funding at a time when the government is more apt to be shutting schools down.
"There is very little capital money for new schools because of the declining student enrolment - we are very blessed," SD46 secretary-treasurer Andrea deBucy said. Hercus believes the overall condition and age of the school, which is over 50 years old, were major contributing factors in the government's decision. The school district is going to have to hold off on the project for a couple of years, though. The government is not releasing the money until 2009. "We'd love to get architects working on the plans now. It can be a long process, and the reality is we won't be able to begin construction until at least a year after we get the money," Hercus said. Although not ideal, the delay will give the school district time to consult the community on the project, particularly on the location of the school. According to the board of trustees, there are three options for the location. One possibility is the current location; the other two options are behind Elphinstone Secondary School and on Hough Road, where the school district owns land. "From what I understand, we get to stay here until the new school is done. It is important that we stay here until we are ready to transition into the new school. It will prevent the loss of school time, and that to me is so important," said GES principal Susan Budgell.
The project is budgeted to build space for 40 kindergarten students and 300 students in grades 1 through 7. Currently Gib-sons Elementary has 25 kindergarten and 275 students in grades 1 through 7.
Initially the board was concerned that the delay in construction would put the project's budget in jeopardy, as the cost of supplies and construction are likely to increase over the next few years, especially with the Olympics approaching. However, concerns were alleviated as deBucy explained that the government has fully indexed the project, which means the budget will increase to adapt to rising costs. "I would like to emphasize the amount of money received will be in excess of $10 to $11 million. We are blessed to be getting this money," deBucy said. Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk says the Ministry of Education's decision shows they are confident the area will continue to grow and sustain their investment. "It's great news. I think it will really help attract young families to the community," Janyk said.