Students playing outside Harrison Hot Springs Elementary in January. The elementary school could be getting a complete overhaul if the ministry of education approved the Fraser-Cascade School District’s capital plan. (Harrison Hot Springs Elementary/Facebook)

New schools, upgrades possible for Agassiz, Harrison students

SD78’s capital plan could see AESS and Harrison Elementary replaced, as well as a new school property

Agassiz and Harrison’s schools could be seeing some major upgrades in the next five years.

At the school board meeting Tuesday (Aug. 27), trustees approved the district’s five-year capital plan, which includes repairs, replacements and procurements for the district’s schools and buses.

Of the 18 items in the $41.5-million plan, the two most significant changes were for Harrison Hot Springs Elementary and Agassiz Elementary Secondary School.

Both schools are in need of major seismic upgrades for the aging facilities, director of facilities and transportation Doug Templeton said, and the plan includes two options to do that.

The first is simply upgrading and replacing sections of the schools to conform with modern seismic requirements — a project that would cost $1.5 million for Harrison Elementary and $10 million for AESS. The other option is to replace the schools entirely, a project that would cost $6 million for Harrison and $18 million for AESS.

“The variable isn’t great to get a new facility versus trying to fix the old one up,” Templeton said.

RELATED: Recent quakes in B.C., California don’t mean ‘Big One’ is imminent, expert says

AESS would only need to be partially replaced, as the gym and shops are still relatively new, Templeton said. If the province agrees to replacing the entire school, it would likely be built beside or in front of the existing school, so students could continue classwork in the current building while construction is underway.

Both AESS and Harrison Hot Springs Elementary are more than 50 years old, and schools of similar age in other districts have already been replaced.

“Neighbouring school districts have replaced that vintage of facility already,” Templeton said. “I know because I was there.”

Seismic upgrades for Kent Elementary’s gym are also included in the capital plan, at a cost of $1.5 million. School enhancement projects for Silver Creek Elementary, Hope Secondary, Coquihalla Elementary and AESS are also on the list.

New playgrounds are included for Harrison Hot Springs Elementary, Coquihalla Elementary and Silver Creek Elementary, and several new buses are also being requested.

(The district requested buses with seatbelts during their last capital plan — those will be arriving this October.)

RELATED: Three new buses on the way for Fraser-Cascade School District

Significant to future students in the Fraser-Cascade School District is the $2 million dedicated for “site acquisition” on the west side of the District of Kent for a new elementary school.

“This is something I discussed with Natalie (Lowe) and I said it’s time for us to put it on the capital plan ,” Templeton explained. “We don’t know exactly where growth is going to go in the Agassiz-Harrison corridor, but if it goes to a percentage of what’s happening in Chilliwack, it may make a requirement for another elementary school.”

There’s no definitive timeline for when a school site would be purchased, Templeton said. Having it in the capital plan would allow the district to look for opportunities as they come up — and before they are needed.

“Nothing’s going to happen this year, but you never know,” he said.

The intense growth in Chilliwack’s school district had a significant impact on the decision to put a property purchase in the 2020-2021 capital plan.

RELATED: Province requests capital project plans from Chilliwack school district

“Chilliwack got caught a little bit flat-footed,” Templeton said. “When you’re growing by 300 or 400 kids a year, that’s a school.

“You got to plan a long ways down the road … It’s important that we try to stay a step ahead of the development requirement.”

The school district still owns the old McCaffrey Alternative School property, located along Dogwood Road. According to secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe, this two-acre property is too small to build a modern school on.

“You need a minimum of four to five acres,” she said. “That site, we haven’t needed it, but we haven’t known for sure how we wanted to repurpose it. So it seemed a little premature to look at selling it until we had a good use for the money or a good use for the property.”

During the meeting, Templeton indicated that the Ministry of Education might be more willing to undertake some of the school district’s more expensive projects if the district is able to pitch in some money of their own.

The ministry “is trying to suggest that if in a partnership with the school district we could manage a way to participate in the projects and make it a win-win politically for the treasury board, as being the district who has some wherewithal to contribute or consider other assets … it could liquidate to help fund the project,” he said.

RELATED: No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

Lowe said this money could come from the sale of the McCaffrey School property, but that it wasn’t decided yet.

“It’s a potential,” she said. “I think we have to always recognize that taxpayer funds are limited, and if we can assist somehow in getting something the community needs that will last for a long period of time and benefit the kids now, we need to look at that.”

The capital plan was approved unanimously during the school board meeting, and will be sent to the Ministry of Education for review and approval. Lowe said there is no definitive date for when the ministry will get back to the school district with which projects will be able to go forward, but said she expects to hear back within four or five months.

Decisions on what funds, if any, would come from the school district will not be made until the ministry has responded with their approval for the projects.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Each step is a prayer’: Ojibwe man will walk from Hope to Vancouver Island for Indigenous healing, reconciliation

James Taylor departs Sept. 20, returns to Saanich in five days for sacred fire

COLUMN: We don’t need an election. But it’s 2020, so we’ll probably get one anyways.

There are only selfish reasons for the NDP to trigger an election this fall

Tammy Wood earns top prize on Food Network’s ‘Wall of Chefs’

Former MasterChef contestant takes home $10,000 prize, beats out three other contenders

Say ‘Hi’ to the mountains (and rain): The smoke is gone from the Fraser Valley, for now

Saturday’s Fraser Valley air quality forecast at ‘moderate risk,’ but morning showers leave skies clear

Chilliwack Agriculture Tour goes virtual during pandemic

Rather than bus tourists to local farms, tour stops will be posted on Facebook and Instagram

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Air quality advisory ends for the Lower Mainland

It had been in effect since Sept. 8

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read