People point out details in the model for the new Chilliwack senior school during an open house at the school on Monday.

New CSS will mark new era in education

The new Chilliwack secondary school will be opening its doors to so many more learners than the current school does.

The new Chilliwack secondary school will be opening its doors to so many more learners than the current school does.At an open house on Monday, the new school’s plans were unveiled after more than two years of planning, and more than a decade of talking.The new school, which will be built on the north side of the current property and will face Portage Avenue, will feature three stories, a Neighbourhood Learning Centre, large student gathering spaces, a professional quality athletic field, an aboriginal cultural centre, and facilities to accommodate the Fraser Valley Distance Education school.It will be built for 1,200 students with plans to expand up to 1,500 students.Fifteen per cent of the new school will be devoted to the Neighbourhood Learning Centre, which will provide services for children and families, young parents and the aboriginal community.This school, said superintendent Corinne McCabe, will change the face of education.“It is designed to support students in many ways, in the classroom, the community, online and at work,” said McCabe. “By bringing all these different people together under one roof, we are creating a community of learners where students will not only be learners but teachers as well.”The new school has been a long time coming, said CSS principal Rick Jones.“This work started a long time ago, it started a couple of [school] boards ago, 10 to 12 years ago when we first started looking at seismic upgrades.”The current school was built in 1950 and is not only a seismic concern, but is also one of the district’s least energy efficient facilities.The new school will be built with LEED Gold standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design System) which promotes environmentally friendly designed buildings that are more efficient and use less energy through design concepts like adding more windows and skylights to incorporate more natural light and reduce artificial light.As well, the new school will feature several wood components on the inside and outside of the facility, which will reduce its carbon footprint, and will also honour the aboriginal community.“I really like the use of cedar in this design,” said Sandra Victor of Cheam First Nation. “Cedar means a lot to our First Nation community. We use it in our baskets, headbands, clothing. To me, [this school] is going to be a homecoming for our students.”For many of the teachers, though, it was the increased gathering spaces they were impressed with.“The school right now doesn’t have any real gathering space except for the front steps and we’re trying to cram all our students in that one space,” said physical education teacher Robert Lindsay. “But now, the gathering area is going to be huge.”The gathering area will be 600 square metres – double the size of the current school’s front foyer.The playing field, meanwhile, will feature an all-weather surface similar to the field at Townsend Park. It will be a partnership between the school district and the City of Chilliwack.In 2008 the B.C. Education Ministry approved $52.3 million for the replacement of CSS, which was announced along with the replacements of Yarrow elementary and Rosedale elementary and Rosedale middle, totaling nearly $100 million.CSS was the last school to get underway with construction.Construction will start in May with the demolition of the music building, part of the north wing of the existing school, the Kipp Centre and Cheam Hall. Construction on the actual school facility will start in September. The new school will open in February, 2013. Total construction will be complete in the summer of 2013.

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