GW Graham (SD33.bc.ca)

G.W. Graham principal says school expansion provides new learning opportunities

A 450-seat add-on will let the school run innovative programs that require more space

G.W. Graham principal Chuck Lawson is a happy man this week.

The just-announced expansion at his high school is targeted to open in September of 2022, and he said more educational doors will be opened when the new space is available.

“We’re going to have up to 10 portables next year (2020-21), and the challenge with those is that they really dictate the type of learning that happens,” he said. “That’s good for certain types of learning. I can put a French class in there. But while we have space for kids, but it’s not purposeful for specialty programs.

“Our crunch comes with hands-on learning. As an example, I have two food rooms and I easily have enough requests to have three going full time.”

Another example is the Trade Sampler program, which is done in partnership with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) and industry and allows students to gain skills and experience in construction, welding, plumbing and electrical.

“We’re really excited about that, but what I need as a learning space for that is a big open shop where kids can do their framing and other things, and build sort of a mini home if you will. Our current shops have table saws and other equipment throughout.”

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Lawson said the plan is to build two shops being added. While one is being built with the Trade Sampler in mind, the other might be used for a Mechatronics program. Mechatronics is a branch of engineering that involves robotics.

“We’ve been going to Burnaby, Mission and New Westminster to check out other programs, and now that we have the space allocated we’re putting together a vision for that,” Lawson said. “Now we can marry the science experience with the shop experience in electronics and machining. There are a lot of elements that can be combined in that one.”

With all the development happening around G.W. Graham, expansion was a must, if only to alleviate overcrowding.

Lawson sees the school eventually having 1,400 to 1,500 students. The population for September 2020 is projected at 1,275.

“Having close to 1,300 kids in the school, you definitely feel it,” Lawson observed. “There are bottlenecks. We have different spots that aren’t built for that many people, and the flow through the hallways comes to a halt.”

The G.W. Graham expansion comes with a price tag of $23.9 million, and as Lawson indicated it checks off a lot of boxes on his administrative wish list.

“You can always look at more, I guess, but it does put us in a very good place for some exciting learning opportunities,” he said. “We have been planning for this, putting money aside for equipment so that once we have that space available we’ll be able to maximize its use.”


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