SMITHERS, BC: Students and families in Smithers are one step closer to having a new 440-seat school, as groundbreaking gets underway for Walnut Park Elementary school’s replacement.
“This is terrific news for students in Smithers who have spent too long learning in a school that needed serious repairs and upgrades,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “The new Walnut Park Elementary will be a vital community hub for families, while giving students a safe and modern place to learn and grow.”
Budgeted at $32.1 million, the Province is contributing $29.7 million for the project and the Bulkley Valley School District is contributing an additional $2.4 million. The new school is expected to be ready in September 2021.
“The community has been waiting years to see Walnut Park Elementary replaced, so more students in Smithers can have the positive learning experience they deserve,” said Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine. “I can’t wait to see children, teachers and staff walking through the doors of a brand-new school and getting the full benefits of a modern learning facility that supports 21st-century learning.”
Construction began in early July 2020 on the two-storey school that will be located on the northwest area of the current site. The new school will have open and collaborative learning spaces and will be built to highly efficient LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standards.
“The board of education is pleased to support a new and innovative space for current and future students who will attend Walnut Park Elementary,” said Jennifer Williams, chair, Bulkley Valley Board of Education. “Along with the new school comes a new daycare facility. Having an early learning centre attached to the school will be a benefit to the families and children in the community, especially when it comes time to transitioning into kindergarten.”
The current school is showing signs of age and has structural deficiencies. The existing building will be demolished following the opening of the new school.
The project will also include a neighbourhood learning centre and Strong Start Program on the school grounds. The Province is working with the Bulkley Valley School District and the Town of Smithers to determine the best use of the neighbourhood learning centre for serving the needs of the community.
Government is making record investments in B.C. schools to give every student the best learning experience possible. In two and a half years, the Province has approved over $2 billion in school capital investments, creating nearly 13,000 new student seats and more than 26,000 seismically safe seats.
To continue this momentum, Budget 2020 includes $2.8 billion for school capital investments over three years.