Less than a month after the provincial government announced it was kicking in $10 million to help the Chilliwack School District (SD 33) purchase former University of the Fraser Valley property, SD 33 is already preparing the community – and the site – for its future.
District staff are recommending the new facility be an “Integrated Arts School of Choice,” geared toward students in grades eight to 12.
The move would take advantage of the former UFV theatre space, as well as culinary arts facilities, says the district in its recommendation to Chilliwack school trustees.
With Chilliwack’s close proximity to the Greater Vancouver area, the city has seen growth in its population, which has resulted in local schools being pushed into over-capacity. As many as than 300 new students are enrolled each year, forcing the district to use 93 portable classrooms.
“We are a growing district and in need of more instructional spaces, and this purchase will help alleviate some of the space challenges,” said Dan Coulter, Chilliwack Board of Education chair, to The Progress previously. “This is great news for our community and students, and I want to thank the Ministry of Education for making this purchase a reality.”
Moving forward, the District is hoping to refurbish the existing location into a new, 700-seat integrated arts school of choice for grades eight through 12 because the District’s most significant space pressures are at the middle and secondary levels. To facilitate this construction, a public consultation process to assist in the vision development to determine what the new school at 45635 Yale Road will look like will begin at some point in the new year.
And while the Yale Road location isn’t typical for a public school, says Coulter, it does offer plenty of benefits that aren’t usually seen in middle schools, such as a functioning, high-end theatre and culinary arts spaces.
With no catchment area, and room for up to 700 students, Gerry Slykhuis, SD 33 secretary treasurer, says this school would not only help alleviate pressure across the District and provide the Board with an opportunity to meet their strategic priorities and goals, but would have a positive impact on students, staff, and the community as a whole.
The idea was also fully supported by middle and secondary school principals who were consulted about the concept. The purchase includes 5.68 acres of land, and three buildings totalling 71,872 sq-ft. And although students at the new facility will need to share the nearby AD Rundle playing field, the district is hoping renovations will include the construction of a new gymnasium.
The goal is to have the school ready for student occupancy in September 2020, which is two years ahead of the 930-seat elementary school announced in Sept. 2018 for south Chilliwack.