Students Miah Tomasi (top left) and Nicholas Voth (front)

Stunning Yarrow School building officially opened

The stunning new building of Yarrow Community School held its official opening last Friday, to a full house of community supporters.

The stunning new building of Yarrow Community School held its official opening last Friday, to a full house of community supporters.

“We feel very fortunate here at Yarrow to be in this building,” said principal Nathan Ngieng. “It’s really been one of a kind for an elementary school. It really enhances what we’re already doing here.”

About 150 people from the school administration, parents, and alumni, came out on Friday to see the sloping roof and red and grey exterior of the new building, components that only hint at the ultra-modern features. Stepping inside, gorgeous exposed B. C. wood beams draw your eyes upward, where sunlight rushes through the floor-to-roof windows. Geothermal blinds cool and heat the space in line with LEED Gold standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design System), plumbing fixtures are water-efficient, and drought-resistant plants border the outer walls. There could not have been a better day for the grand opening, and spectacular mountain views stood out against the blue sky and red exterior.

Venturing further inside, the upstairs classrooms are outfitted with iPads, Apple TV, MacBook Pros, and document cameras, all investments to make learning as interactive and memorable as possible. Sound field systems, which consist of a special microphone that teachers wear around the neck, enhance and sharpen an instructor’s voice. Every classroom also has a hand-held microphone for students.

Some of the upgrades in the $14.9-million school, however, were strictly for safety reasons.

“This one’s a lot safer. This one’s earthquake-proof, and the old one actually had tons of cracks in the walls,” says 12-year-old Yarrow student Miah Tomasi of the seismic upgrades that are the main reason for the replacement of the old building. The new school also sits about 10 feet higher to prevent floods.

The open spaces and natural light are an immediate morale-booster.

“I just love all the natural light coming in,” says Tomasi.

“The old building was dark and hard to focus. It was dusty,” adds 10-year-old Nicholas Voth.

The new building looks spotless, and it is hard to picture a dust particle daring to settle amidst all the light.

Tomasi and Voth’s favourite spaces are the library and gym. The openness of the former gives librarians much more room to work, says Tomasi. For Voth, the gym’s new scoreboard and wooden slates on the walls give a professional appearance.

The 42,637 square foot building can accommodate 475 students from kindergarten to Grade 6. Part of this includes a Neighbourhood Learning Centre for the community at large to participate in recreational programs. The school also rents the multi-purpose room and gym for meetings and events.

Students have been in the new school since Sept. 2012, but Ngieng said the official opening was delayed until staff were certain all the kinks of a new construction were out.

Since starting in May 2011, construction was due to finish in Jan. 2012, then pushed to the spring break, and finally completed last summer. The noise was a major distraction to students, confirm Tomasi and Voth. At one point, loud pounding at the front of the school was enough to vibrate the building. Seeding the field is still ongoing, but this is quiet work.

The old school building, standing for at least five decades, has been decommissioned since July 2012.

In a touch of nostalgic respect, crews installed the old school benches at the entry of the new building.

“Chilliwack is one of the largest school districts in B.C. and I am delighted that we could replace the old Yarrow Elementary to provide a safe, well-designed facility for our students and for the whole community to enjoy,” said Minister of Education Don McRae.

Another upcoming improvement is the $52.3-million replacement of Chilliwack Secondary School. Construction is underway, and the province hopes to complete it by Sept. 2013.