The former grounds of the University of the Fraser Valley could soon be home to Chilliwack’s newest school, thanks to funding announced by the provincial government Friday.
Although it had been in the works since prior to October’s election, the province announced on Dec. 20 that it’s providing the Chilliwack School District with up to $10 million to purchase part of the former Chilliwack North campus of the UFV for the site of a new school, Education minister Rob Fleming said.
“With the purchase of this land and buildings, students in the growing Chilliwack School District will have a great new place to learn,” said Fleming.
“Converting this former university space into a new school is not only good news for families in Chilliwack, it’s also a smart investment in a fast-growing school district.”
Although pieces of the original property have been sold off over the years, and currently houses the Cascade Christian School, the site has been mostly unoccupied since UFV moved most of its programs to its new location at Canada Education Park in 2012.
Vacant sites of a suitable size for a school are difficult to locate in the Chilliwack area because most larger parcels of land are typically located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), which does not allow use for schools. However, the former UFV site is very suitable with its existing education buildings, which can be more easily renovated into a school facility.
“After relocating to Canada Education Park and marketing this property, UFV is pleased this land will now be used to answer a clear community need and support the Government of B.C. and the Chilliwack School District in providing education in our region,” said Craig Toews, UFV vice-president, external.
“The Chilliwack Board of Education is delighted with this announcement, which is a priority in our five-year capital plan,” said Dan Coulter, Chilliwack Board of Education chair.
“We are a growing district and in need of more instructional spaces, and this purchase will help alleviate some of the space challenges. this is great news for our community and students, and I want to thank the Ministry of Education for making this purchase a reality.”
This idea “fits into a new, north side school,” said Dan Coulter, Chilliwack Board of Education chair. Out of all the districts in the province, Chilliwack has the highest student to portable ratio … so (a new school) will add breathing room in our (current classrooms), but we also still need other things that will help aleviate our crowding.”
As Chilliwack is one of the fastest growing communities in B.C., administrators hope this addition to Chilliwack’s school district will accommodate the student growth resulting from an influx of young families to the community.
“I think the minstry has rightly recognized our need and are willing to invest in capital projects to help us get the instructional space our students need,” said Coulter.
“What the school will look like is sort of up in the air right now, though,” he continued. “We will go into a public consultation on what the school will look like, age of kids, composition of the school. And (Cascade Christian School is) close by, but we’re willing to work with them on things.”
Government is committed to investing in fast-growing school districts like Chilliwack. In September 2018, the ministry announced a new 930-seat K-8 school in south Chilliwack worth $53.6 million. That school’s construction is scheduled to begin next fall, with doors opening to students September 2022.