Education Minister Rob Fleming was in Chilliwack Friday to announce $15.4 million in provincial funding for a new 600-seat arts and technology secondary school at the former University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) north campus.
Fleming combined the announcement of the school with word that construction is set to begin in January on the $53.6 million elementary-middle school for 930 students on the south side next to the Vedder River.
The school at the UFV site is set to open in September 2021, the south side school in September 2022. Combined, Fleming said the 1,500 new student seats would help to eliminate two-thirds of the more than 90 portables currently in use in Chilliwack, the district with the highest ratio of students in portables in B.C.
Education Minister Rob Fleming formally announces the new arts and tech, Grade 9-12 school in #Chilliwack. The district has the highest ratio of portables in the province, he says this will help alleviate that. pic.twitter.com/kIQm2v6mmv
— Paul J. Henderson (@PeeJayAitch) December 13, 2019
“It’s the equivalent of about 65 to 70 portables of classroom space that will be built,” Fleming said in an interview after the announcement. “Seventeen per cent of Chilliwack students are now learning in portables. These projects will make it possible to eliminate that number of portables, and we’ll have to have some projects that follow in order to meet the growth that is coming each year.”
Announced alongside the new high school with an arts and technology focus was a grade 6-to-8 cohort of arts and technology at A.D. Rundle, which is just metres from the new school’s location on the old UFV site. Along with F.G. Leary fine arts elementary, there will be schools of choice for any student in the district to pursue an arts and technology-focused education from Kindergarten to graduation by 2022.
The announcement of the new school was not a surprise, as the Board of Education voted in favour of the new school earlier this year.
|A.D. Rundle student Emma Penner speaks about her interest in the 600-seat arts and technology secondary school in Chillliwack formally announced by Education Minister Rob Fleming (left) on Dec. 13, 2019. Listening, too, is Board of Education chair Dan Coulter. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)|
The unique layout of the school’s buildings lends itself to the arts, culinary space, and technology classrooms, senior staff said at public consultation meetings held in the spring.
With the announcement Friday, the Ministry of Education said the province has announced $79 million for Chilliwack school expansion projects in the last two years.
“A further 690 student seats are under business-case development that are expected to reduce more portables in Chilliwack,” according to the ministry’s press release.
Minister Fleming was last in Chilliwack in September 2018 to announce $48.6 million for the new Kindergarten-to-grade-8 school on the south side next to the Vedder River set to open in 2022.
“We’re all very excited about the new schools that are on the way to provide a better learning experience for our students,” Board of Education chair Dan Coulter said in a press release. “These investments are the result of a positive relationship between our board and the provincial government, and we’re excited to continue working with the Province to add even more new classrooms to our district.”
The building at the UFV site already features classrooms and an auditorium, with childcare on site, and will be renovated to fit secondary school programming.
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