After being mostly vacant since UFV left the premises at its Chilliwack North campus, the Province has stepped up to help School District 33 purchase the property for a new school. (Paul Henderson/Progress file)

Public consultation kicks off for new Chilliwack arts school

Two meetings planned for April to garner feedback on proposed school focus

It has a solid theatre, a commercial kitchen and room for 700 students.

It could be open by the fall 2020.

Now, it just needs the final nod from the school board. The proposed “integrated arts” school will be centred around the former site of the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) on Yale Road, with a focus on the theatre, kitchen, and classrooms there. It would eventually cater to students in Grades 8 through 12, but would start off with the youngest three grades and grow over three years to completion. The first graduation year would be 2022.

And, if the school is approved to be a designated arts school, it could mean the nearby A.D. Rundle (ADR) middle school would see a shift toward the arts as well.

Assistant superintendent Rohan Arul-Pragasam presented the latest information to the Chilliwack school board last week, and noted two tentatives dates for public consultation. Because while the principals and vice-principals are reportedly in favour of an arts school, the district also wants feedback from parents and students.

Those dates are set for April 16 for the north side of the city (Alumni Hall in the NLC, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), and April 24 for the south side (Sardis secondary, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.). All feedback is expected to be presented back to the board by their April 30 meeting, for final approval.

Even though it’s just a proposal to both the community and the board at this point, Arul-Pragasam presented some of the pillars of an integrated arts school. They include Integration of Disciplines, Authentic Learning, Collaborative Culture and a Visionary Staff. Arts and non-arts subjects would be taught in partnership, core competencies would be a main focus, and all staff members would ideally have either a degree or post-graduate diploma in one of the arts in addition to core curriculum.

During the question period at the end of the meeting, parent Jamie Benton asked if the school district had ever looked into adding an urban art component to their schools, to help reduce graffiti. Staff noted they hadn’t done so, but that it was an example of ideas they hope parents bring to the consultation sessions.

Parent Diane Braun, who is also the District Parent Advisory Council chair, noted in a question to the board that there is a popular compensation program in Surrey that helps students heavily involved in the arts (and sports), and who may miss large portions of school.

With the new school, there is also the possibility of integrating an arts focus to Grades 6 through 8 at ADR. This would work to give students at ADR access to arts facilities, and students at the new school to have access to areas like sports fields and industrial shops. The site is only 5.68 acres, which is considered small for a high school. There is no room on site for a field of its own.

It would also provide Kindergarten through graduation arts-focused learning for families who wish that for their children. F.G. Leary is an arts-focused elementary school with an open catchment.

The new school comes at a time when enrolment is at an all-time high and schools are experiencing crowding and the highest proportion of portables in the province. The district’s purchase of the remaining UFV grounds, within the new growing community of Midtown, and along a major road, will help soften some of that pressure, Arul-Pragasam noted.

The Ministry of Education announced it is providing up to $10 million for the project. The completion date is quicker than a previously announced elementary school along the Vedder, because most of the infrastructure from UFV is still in place.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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