The Ministry of Education signed two project agreements worth $26.7 million Wednesday morning to build two elementary schools in Vancouver.
A new school will replace the seismically unsafe General Gordon on West Sixth Avenue near Bayswater in Kitsilano at a cost of $14.7 million, and $12 million will construct a long-awaited International Village elementary near False Creek.
Both schools will include neighbourhood learning centres.
General Gordon will accommodate 40 full-day kindergarten and 400 students in grades 1 to 7, which is similar to the number of students it serves now. As a neighbourhood learning centre, it will provide space for a music program, multi-purpose area with a kitchen, flexible performance space and an enhanced library and computer lab.
Students can continue to attend the 100-year-old school while the new school is constructed on the southern portion of the site. The community will be consulted on the design and construction is expected to begin next summer.
"The playground will be tight and that's unfortunate," conceded Patti Bacchus, Vision Vancouver chair of the Vancouver School Board.
But school board staff previously determined that housing portables on the small site would be difficult if an option to retain and renovate the school had been approved. Bacchus said construction typically takes two years.
Education Minister George Abbott, who announced the funding Wednesday, supported the plan. "We know that the new structure will blend beautifully in this very beautiful part of Vancouver as this school has for close to a hundred years," he said.
The International Village elementary will accommodate 60 full-day kindergarten and 450 students in grades 1 to 7 across from Andy Livingstone Park at Expo Boulevard and Abbott Street. A multipurpose room will be constructed on the ground floor adjacent to a daycare as the neighbourhood learning centre. Bacchus hopes construction could begin in spring or summer of next year with a new school to open in 2014.
"One of the first things I dealt with as a trustee when I was elected was lineups at Elsie Roy [in Yaletown] on the New Year's Day weekend as parents lined up to get a spot in that community, so this is long awaited and going to be very welcome," Bacchus said. "And I know it's going to become the heart and soul of that community and provide a really vibrant hub for the families there_ That's where parents meet other parents, make connections, kids make their friends and that's how we build the strong and healthy communities that we're so proud of."
Bacchus credited a student group a decade ago at Vancouver Technical secondary with getting the ball rolling on making schools safe in the case of an earthquake.
According to the Ministry of Education, 40 capital and seismic projects worth more than $188 million have been completed in Vancouver since 2001. Abbott expects seismic upgrades at all of the schools in the province to be completed within the next decade. He said scientists have helped prioritize upgrades based on the building materials used and soils where they were constructed.