New elementary school will create space for over 350 students

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No doubt to the relief of many parents and administrative staff, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced today that Fort St. John will be receiving a new $24.8-million elementary school in the northwest quadrant of the City.

The unnamed, two-storey K-6 school, near the Sunset Ridge residential development, will have room 365 students altogether — 40 kindergarten students and 325 in grades 1-6.

Minister of Education, and Peace River South MLA, Mike Bernier said Fort St. John and the North Peace is different from a lot of places he has toured around the province. “You have a growing population. You have more kids coming into the school system here than most places in the province that aren’t seeing this. So because of this, there’s the stresses that come with a growing district.”

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The project is expected to go to tender in spring 2016 for construction to begin in the summer. Completion of the school is scheduled for late 2017.

The school board estimates they will they will need about 18 teachers, plus administrators and other staff. Superintendent of School District 60 Dave Sloan said finding staff for a district such as theirs is challenging, but the opportunity of a new school is exciting, and he is sure they will see a lot of interest.

The City of Fort St. John is contributing $2.5 million toward the gym of the new school, which will be used after hours as a community recreation centre. The new centre will have space for bleachers to accommodate about 350 seats, a gym height of 26-foot clearance, and a large space for soccer and basketball.

The gym will be about 900 square metres — closer in size to a high school gym than an elementary one.

Mayor of Fort St. John Lori Ackerman said they decided to invest in this opportunity to build on the success of other community recreation centres.

“We look at the success of what’s happened, and the opportunity of what it provides to us as we grow and move forward,” she said.

Bernier encourages schools working with municipalities on new projects. “This announcement today probably wouldn’t have happened and probably wouldn’t have been to this level as a benefit to the community if it wasn’t for the relationship with the municipality.”

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The building, at almost 4,000-square-metres, will also be home to a Neighbourhood Learning Centre and a StrongStart classroom.

While it couldn’t be confirmed when or what other announcements might be on the horizon for school districts in BC, or specify what could be heading to our district, Bernier did say that there definitely were more announcements to come from the Ministry of Education.

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