FORT ST. JOHN, BC: Students at Upper Halfway school in the Peace River North School District will soon have a gymnasium of their own.
“Playing and team sports are vital to early development and learning, and help children develop life skills of teamwork and collaboration that will serve them throughout their lives,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “It’s important all children in B.C. have access to athletic equipment and this gym will bring valuable sports facilities to people and communities in the region.”
Upper Halfway students are in kindergarten to Grade 10 and live in rural and First Nations communities outside of Fort St. John. Students currently have access to the Halfway Graham Community Hall for limited indoor play, but it is not wheelchair accessible, has no washroom facilities and is located 300 metres from the school along a path that requires plowing in winter.
“The School District 60 board is excited to be able to enhance and improve the equity of opportunities for our Upper Halfway students,” said Helen Gilbert, board chair. “The addition of a fully accessible gymnasium space will allow students to build a wide range of physical literacy skills. The gymnasium will be tied into a kitchen facility so it will be easy to host school and community events. We look forward to working with our partners to make this new space a central one to the community.”
The new gymnasium will be accessible and built to LEED Gold standards with construction materials, and mechanical and electrical systems that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and utility costs. The gym will include cultural education components with input from the local First Nations and school community to support both physical education and community events. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2022.
The Government of B.C. will invest $5.72 million for the project and the district will contribute nearly $29,000.
Most students at Upper Halfway are from the Halfway River First Nations Reserve and surrounding Russian- and German-speaking communities. About 65% of the students identify as Indigenous, and many are English Language Learners as their primary language is not English or is a non-standard dialect.
“Part of B.C.’s work in advancing reconciliation includes supporting communities as they build safe and accessible spaces for children to learn and play together,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “I’m delighted that we have been able to provide the funding needed to build a gymnasium that involves the guidance of local Nations, while also supporting a cleaner future.”
The board of education is committed to the principles of Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+), considering factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age and mental or physical disability. For this project, the district hopes to address accessibility issues on the site, add a gender-neutral washroom facility and incorporate Dene-Za indigenous design into the facility design.
Budget 2021 includes nearly $3.5 billion for school capital investments, including new and expanded schools, seismic upgrades and replacements, and site purchases to ensure land is in place to accommodate fast-growing communities throughout the province.
Written and released by BC Government
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