Workers put the finishing touches on entrances to new portables at Mt. Slesse middle school in Chilliwack back in 2018. The school district has had about 100 portables in use since then. (Paul Henderson/ Progress file)

Additions at Chilliwack schools may eventually replace portables

District’s capital plan illustrates which schools need to expand as community grows

A glimmer of hope has emerged that portables could someday be replaced with permanent classroom spaces in Chilliwack.

The Board of Education just approved this year’s Five Year Capital Plan, which is required annually to illustrate each district’s most pressing needs to the Ministry of Education.

They’ve already secured the new southside elementary, Stito:s La:Lem Toti:lt which will open in 2022, as well as a parcel of land and buildings from the old UFV site that will become Imagine High Arts and Technology School, opening in 2021. But land masses large enough for further new schools have all but disappeared in Chilliwack. They are working building at the old Rosedale elementary site, and are hoping to build a new middle school in Promontory.

But beyond that, it’s been difficult to assemble enough space to accomodate the quick influx of student this district has experienced in the past several years.

Secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis discussed the plan with the Board of Education on May 26, who unanimously approved it. He said the hope is that additions to schools would be able to eventually replace portables where possible.

READ MORE: Imagine High floated as name for new Chilliwack art and tech school

Chilliwack has been using about 100 portables over the past two school years, with a sharp increase linked to real estate changes and families relocating from the Vancouver area and Alberta.

Portables are meant to be used as temporary space to be placed and taken away as school populations fluctuate. But there has been no decrease at any Chilliwack schools for years. While they serve their purpose, they are inferior to school space for many reasons. They have shorter lifespans than real buildings, are costly, and most don’t even include water service.

Additions would bring more shared space like gyms and flex areas to schools, as well facilities such as washrooms. While they do create larger schools and require land use on site, all sites currently use portables anyway.

The list being submitted this year — if magically filled tomorrow — would add 2,150 spaces to seven schools. They are in listed in priority as, G.W Graham, Cheam elementary, Sardis secondary, Vedder middle, Sardis elementary, Watson elementary and Cultus Lake elementary. The Sardis Secondary addititon would include a new gymnasium.

The total cost for all of those projects in today’s dollars are an estimated $116 million.

The Five Year Plan includes all capital funding requests, from brand new schools to bus replacements. Only selected items are chosen each year by the Ministry for funding.

READ MORE: Lofty plans for Chilliwack school district revealed


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