Imagine High is taking shape, and one of its main elements is light.
Daylight pours into the grand entrance, even on a winter day, with its two-storey windows and open atmosphere. On a recent media tour of the Chilliwack school district’s newest offering, the windows seem to offer a glimpse into the future.
“There are lots of little reading nooks upstairs,” says principal Brooke Haller. There is one in particular that she loves. It’s at the end of a hallway and features a ceiling-high window that looks out onto the treed school grounds. It’s a cozy place, where a bench would provide the perfect place to read, sketch, study or even daydream.
And there are perfect little spots like that all over the campus.
Even though the school is still a construction zone, with a hand-over date pencilled in for this August, it’s easy for the administrators there to imagine students filling the space.
“You can see how lovely and big the classrooms are, they’re so bright,” says Janet Carroll, the school’s program director. She can’t wait to see life in the classrooms. She envisions the band class filled with instruments and music, for example, and the industrial, full-service kitchen filled with students learning culinary arts.
“We just want to fast forward to when they’re here,” adds Haller, laughing.
Even the gymnasium streams in light from above, where windows have been built. In fact, the entire gymnasium has been newly built. It was one of the factors missing in the parcel of land and buildings purchased by the Chilliwack school district for this new school. So many other elements were already there, left intact from its days as the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV).
There are 15 classrooms, which are roomier than standard B.C. classrooms since they were designed for university classes. And then there is the theatre, which was the gem of the UFV and, Carroll says, will be for Imagine High. It is a ‘theatre-in-the-round’ and they’ll be receiving all new sound and lighting fixtures.
Some things, like the gym, will be brand new. That well-lit grand entrance will include a library and commons area, a giant glass feature wall, a long work bar for students to pull up to and study or hang out, the reception area and offices, and even a digital recording studio. In that studio, students will be able to use a green screen, or cut an album, for example, says Haller.
And looking over the area will be the staff room, where teachers can take their lunch or prep for the next class.
Carroll is even excited about the neutrally painted walls, which will one day soon be adorned with students’ art and creations of all kinds.
While there are new elements, and old ones, the strong history of being the old UFV campus remains. UFV started as the Fraser Valley College, and was the result of a grassroots effort by locals to be built.
“People that we’ve talked to in the community have a really emotional connection to this building,” Haller says.
They will welcome in the first 350 students this September, and there is still room for those who are interested. The school will take three years to build to 700 students. They are hearing from students who are interested in the arts, and in technology, and even culinary arts. And just being in an arts and tech school could open a student to a new opportunity they hadn’t considered, Carroll says.
“A lot of the students we’re talking to are really excited about the theatre,” she says, and not just for the love of acting. Theatre programs are intriguing to those interested in business (box office), construction (set building) and technology (audio and lighting).
“There is so much learning that happens in a theatre,” Carroll adds.
Carroll and Haller are continuing to meet with their new families via Zoom, to chat about the students, their families and the school. They are just starting the hiring process, looking for some lead teachers who will help with program development. After that, regular staff hiring will take place in line with the rest of the district, starting in March.
Imagine High will be a school of choice, so students can attend from anywhere in the district, and even from outside the district.
They are also holding Zoom Townhall meetings, on Feb. 3., March 10 and April 8, all at 6:30 p.m.
For more information on the school or to register for a Zoom meeting, visit www.sd33.bc.ca, or call 604-792-1321.
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