To the editor:
In last week's letter to the editor, Bruce Levens asks why the Vancouver School Board made the extra effort to move, refit and incorporate Lord Kitchener Elementary's 1914 class A heritage wood building. While simply expanding the new school site may have been cheaper as Mr. Levens suggests, an important objective for this project is to maintain heritage in a fiscally responsible way while always ensuring all our buildings are both safe and sustainable.
This is a goal that is shared by all of our stakeholders including the City of Vancouver, the local Kitchener Elementary community and our funders, the Ministry of Education.
Because the 1914 building is considered a unique building of high heritage significance, we worked very hard to retain as much of it as possible. However, in order to make the old building as safe, functional and sustainable as possible, it required some significant upgrades. Inside, we wanted a learning space that would engage the school community and so we designed the interior with our students and staff foremost in mind. On the outside, we saw the seismic upgrade as an opportunity to replace the building's old rotting windows with more energy efficient ones, which closely mimic the building's original style. We also upgraded the building envelope to prevent future rot from penetrating the structure. By moving the heritage building we not only were able to incorporate it seamlessly into the new school but place it in a more prominent part of the school site.
All of these decisions have been supported by the local community and demonstrate that an optimal learning environment and superb classroom design need not be sacrificed on the altar of heritage. In Kitchener's case, we can enjoy both a gorgeous, safe and sustainable historical building and an engaging school environment.
Patti Bacchus, VSB Chair Vancouver