Knowing her school is unlikely to crumble or crush anyone when the big one hits feels “fantastic” to Lord Kitchener elementary principal Rosemary Love.
The $18.7 million seismic upgrade and partial replacement in Arbutus Ridge on West King Edward Avenue at Collingwood Street was officially unveiled Nov. 20.
Lord Kitchener’s 1914 standalone wooden structure was relocated, rejigged and reinforced but the main old brick school building constructed in 1924 will meet the wrecking ball next month.
Love was relieved to move students out of the old building in October.
“When we were getting ready to come here and things weren’t getting fixed because we were moving to a new building, more and more and more it felt like, you know, let’s get into the new building,” Love said. “It really feels so secure, we just know that it is. We watched them do the work… The amount of rebar is just unbelievable.”
Love, Education Minister Don McRae, Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus and students spoke at the event that drew school board trustees, parents, seismic upgrading activists, media and students to a central, airy, bright two-storey gathering space in the new school.
Bacchus noted that pressure to seismically upgrade Vancouver schools started with student activists a decade ago. She reminded the crowd that a group called The Lizards at Van Tech secondary created a public service announcement for TV that garnered attention.
“It was students who started it, students who inspired it,” Bacchus said. “If you ever see something that you think needs improving, get together with your friends, start talking about it, start working together and you can bring something like this, you can inspire it and you can lead this and that is the power of the students’ voice… Generations of students will benefit from the creativity and the commitment of those original Lizards and of the people that followed that movement.”
Grade 7 student Hallie Lauinger said students are thrilled with the size of the new gym.
“We love the flow and design of the common areas,” she added.
“We cannot wait to get our playground back,” remarked Grade 7 student Niko Chatzispiros.
The garage doors to classrooms that surround the central gathering spot were open during a tour. Small rooms for quiet work are situated near some of the larger classrooms and tables from classrooms spilled out into common areas. The new construction was built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental, or LEED, Gold standards.
The school can accommodate 450 grades 1 to 7 students and 60 full-day kindergarten students. Love believes total enrolment sits at 420.
The school also includes a neighbourhood learning centre that incorporates spaces for community-based programs and features a multipurpose room for out-of-school care, a tech lab for sciences and an enhanced gym with a stage and change rooms for the music program and public use.
The school board hopes roughly 50 schools in need of seismic work will be upgraded by 2020.
The provincial government reports it has invested more than $188 million on 40 capital and seismic projects in the district since 2001.