Just before Christmas, Education Minister Mike Bernier visited to announce the building of a new elementary school in Fort St John. The announcement was more than welcome, as schools in town are full well beyond capacity. Rooms originally designated for multi purpose or specialized uses have long since been pressed into service as classroom space, and plans are in the works for portables to added as population pressures mount. The new school is earmarked for the northwest end of town, currently served only by CM FInch Elementary where the first of possibly several portables was added earlier this year. Beyond creating new classroom spaces, the district continues to petition the government to replace aging facilities at Ecole Central and Charlie Lake.
The process for new schools began with the acquisition of school sites. With the assistance of both provincial and local governments, suitable sites have been identified and purchased. Site preparation and construction will begin this spring at the northwest site. The design and construction phases will need to be aggressively addressed if the district is to meet the Ministry of Education's hoped for timeline of completion in less than two years.
The work is already underway. In addition to visiting a number of new schools, senior staff have also engaged an architectural firm to help create a school that suits our northern context, recognizes the needs of learners and educators and will efficiently serve our community for years to come. Over the weeks to come, our architects will run focus groups to consult with a wide range of community and district stakeholders in order to better combine community needs and values with current developments in 21st century educational structures. We are confident that the resulting building will be marvelous. When complete, the new school will not only be a learning center of excellence, but will also incorporate space to support other diverse community needs such as day care and after hours recreational opportunities in an enhanced gym.
Its been a long time since our community built a new school, and we know that we need to make the most of this opportunity. More than just adding seats and spaces, we see the new school as an opportunity to create a facility that can serve the greater community, well beyond the boundaries of traditional schooling. Our new school will be designed to make our community better than before and will recognize that community needs and aspirations are also education matters.