Class sizes restored, exacerbating Chilliwack’s capacity problems

As class sizes revert to 2002 levels, Chilliwack school admins get creative in classroom design

Chilliwack is looking for spaces in their schools as class sizes are becoming smaller once again.

Chilliwack students will be going back to smaller classrooms in September, but some of those classrooms will be in creative places.

School administrators have been tasked with auditing their buildings for all available classroom space, identifying areas that could be converted to classrooms. In total, 37 new classrooms are needed to accomodate both the new, smaller class sizes, and continued growth in enrolment.

In some schools, finding new space will mean even more portables. In other schools, it will mean saying goodbye to long-running, in-school daycare operations.

Music and computer rooms are also getting squeezed out at some schools, while others will simply fill currently unused rooms. At one school, a wide hallway is being eyed as a potential new room, with the addition of a temporary wall.

In a presentation to the school board on Monday night (May 9), school district staff pointed out that these cramped conditions will be only for the upcoming year. The following September, in 2018, the district is hoping to reconfigure schools to end elementary at Grade 5. That could move about 1,000 students out of the elementary sites into the middle schools.

The changes will help the school district conform to the restored class size and composition contract language from 2002, as required by an earlier Supreme Court decision. Capital costs alone for the change is estimated at $1,753,000 in Chilliwack. The Ministry of Education has instructed school districts to focus on immediate needs.

But it may not be that easy. At Monday’s meeting, secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis noted that ordering portables is not a fast process, and that they may not all arrive in time for September.

Some of the current space issues within the Chilliwack School District could eventually be alleviated in time. An $6.5 million addition at Promontory elementary will add 200 student spaces next April, and the board recently purchased a 12 acre site along the Vedder River as a potential site for a new school.

And, in September 2018 when Grade 6 classes move to middle schools, even more space will free up.

But in the meantime, smaller classes will mean fewer non-traditional rooms across the district.

List of changes

Bernard: Early success program moving to computer lab, freeing up one classroom.

Central: Two portables being added.

Cheam: One portable being added, and another room for teachers is changing to a classroom.

Cultus: One portable being added.

East Chilliwack: One portable being added, small computer lab becoming a classroom.

Evans: Two portables to be added.

FG Leary: One small classroom available to use, one more classroom still needed.

Greendale: Multipurpose room to become a classroom.

Little Mountain: Two empty classrooms to be renovated.

Promontory: Music room to become classroom. Two more classrooms still needed.

Robertson: Multipurpose room and an unused computer lab being renovated to become classrooms.

Rosedale: Strongstart moving to a room to be created at the end of a hallway.

Sardis: One music room being converted, one portable being added.

Strathcona: Timeout room/portable to be used as classroom. Strongstart moving to multipurpose room.

Tyson: Music room/portabale to be used as a classroom. One portable being added.

Unsworth: One room in annex being converted. Two portables being added. Washroom space being added.

Vedder: Four more portables added, bringing total to nine. More washroom space will be needed.

McCammon, Watson and Yarrow: Each have classrooms available.

•Related story: New teachers to cost Chilliwack about $8.7 million