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Chilliwack private school approved for new digs

Unity Christian school will be undergoing a $3.45 million expansion and elementary school relocation over the next year.
Unity Christian school principal Ed Noot is excited about plans to expand the high school and build a new elementary school on the high school grounds.

After five years of waiting, Unity Christian school has finally got the go-ahead to expand.

This week, the school community gave the school board a 95 per cent approval to proceed with the long-delayed $3.45 million building project and elementary school relocation.

"This is great news for Unity Christian school and for the Chilliwack community," said school principal Ed Noot.

Currently the elementary school is located on McNaught Road. The facility is 45 years old, "and it's tired; that's the best way to explain it," said Noot.

The school board looked into renovations, but the costs were "astronomical." It made more sense to build a new elementary school at the "much more visible" high school location on Hack Brown Road.

However, when the school community initially gave consent back in 2007, it was met with several obstacles. There were issues getting a building permit due to problems with water pressure, and concern with debris flow coming off the mountain with the subdivision east of the private school. As well, the economy took a nosedive, "and everything sort of stalled," said Noot.

But the issues have since been resolved with the city, "and we're ready to hit the ground full speed running."

The new elementary school will consist of a preschool, kindergarten, and classrooms for Grades 1-5, a 6,000 square foot gymnasium, new staff room and workroom.

The high school will also be getting an expansion that includes eight new classrooms and two new shop areas.

Specialty areas, including the library, music room, and theatre will be shared between both schools.

As well, the fields will be redeveloped and a playground will be installed on the property.

"This represents a major step forward for our school," said Noot.

"The community will benefit as well. I think Unity Christian will become the centre for people to hang out and kids to play. We're excited to be a part of this community."

Because independent schools don't qualify for government funding for capital projects, revenue will come from donations and the sale of of the elementary school land, of which the school board already has a commitment from a group of parents interested in purchasing and redeveloping the land.

"The support of our parent and grandparent community is phenomenal," said school board chair Steven Brouwer. "They believe in what Unity Christian stands for and they'll open their wallets to make this dream a reality."

No start date for construction has yet been set, however the school board expects the ground-breaking to take place before the end of the school year, and the new school open by Sept. 2013.