Education Minister Rob Fleming was in Chilliwack Monday to announce $48.6 million in provincial government funding to build the new school on the south side adjacent to the Vedder River.
Construction on the new 930-seat, Kindergarten-to-grade 8 school is scheduled to begin October 2019 and be ready for students in September 2022.
The school will be built on a 12.43-acre property purchased by the school district last year at the end of Tyson Road along the river. The district will also contribute $5 million to the new school.
The funding announcement wasn’t a totaly surprise given the district’s purchase of the land, but approval from the Treasury Board hadn’t yet come and the precise dollar figure of the funding from the ministry was not released until Monday.
Fleming used the grand opening of Promontory Heights elementary’s new addition to make the announcement, and he addressed the issue of overcrowding in schools particularly in fast-growing districts like Chilliwack.
“We’ve got way too many students learning in portables in this district,” Fleming said. “That’s why today’s addition at Promontory Heights is so important. Without this addition, 200 more students in Chilliwack would likely be in portables.”
He then moved on to announce the $48.6 million for the new school as another way to address overcrowding.
“With a new school in a beautiful setting, families in Chilliwack’s South Side community will have the pleasure of sending their children to a modern learning environment that will give them the best chance to succeed,” Fleming said. “Chilliwack is one of the fastest-growing school districts in B.C., and we are making investments to match that growth to make life better for families.”
Details outlined in a press release issued as the funding was announced included that the new school will have space for 80 kindergarten students, 250 elementary students and 600 middle school students.
The name of the school will be selected by the Chilliwack Board of Education at a later date.
Given the over-capacity status of most schools in the district, Fleming was asked about what more could be done to get more kids out of portables. He responded that the district had done a good job with grade reconfiguration to help, and the Promontory expansion was an example of a positive project.
He did concede, however, that more school building is needed in Chilliwack.
“The next capital project is an addition at a secondary school,” he said, referring to Chilliwack secondary school. “We are looking at that already.
“We will need more school building in Chilliwack and we are committed to that.”
Chilliwack School Board Chair Paul McManus addressed the group in attendance at the announcement on Monday, a group that included many Grade 5 students. The announcement was opened with singing by the school’s choir, but the highlight by way of applause was when 10-year-old Grade 5 student Brooklyn Fulton read a speech she had memorized.
“The addition to our school is much needed and has improved our learning environment,” she said, in part.
“Let’s all put our hands together and thank those who made this generous addition possible.”
Also in attendance at the announcement were Mayor Sharon Gaetz, Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness, and six of the seven Chilliwack school board members. Only Barry Neufeld was absent.