New school for Vancouver's University Hill secondary delayed to January

Stuffed University Hill secondary enrolled additional students last spring because it was slated to move into a new, larger location this September.

Now the school probably won't run in the new location until the New Year.

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Unforeseen conditions mean construction of the new school is expected to be complete in November. The move will likely happen over the winter break.

"Of course people are disappointed that we're not already in there," said principal Alex Grant. "But, still, we're excited about the prospect of being in a new building in the New Year."

"For students it means that, just overall, the building is more crowded," he said.

Teachers with their own classroom are often unable to sit at their desks during their preparation time, because others occupy their classrooms.

"It means they might have to go somewhere else, like the staffroom, to do their preparation," Grant said.

Students in drama and music are suffering the most, Grant added, because classes are being held in a portable rather than the auditorium.

Administrators learned in the summer that the new school wouldn't be ready by September.

"We had already accepted other students and we had also constructed a timetable based on that level of staffing," Grant said.

U-Hill was built for 350 students. The old school is accommodating 651 teens with the help of eight portables. Another 40 students study off-site.

The school board is renovating the old National Research Council building on Wesbrook Mall at the south edge of the University of B.C. campus and constructing an addition to accommodate 800 students and eventually, 1,000.

But consistently rainy weather last spring delayed completion of the torch-on roof and interior work couldn't occur until the roof was in place, according to Grant. Lead paint wasn't detected in the preconstruction phase but lead primer was found under the top layer of paint when the renovated building and addition were being joined.

The Grade 8 to 12 school is meant to become a Grade 9 to 12 school after a new elementary school is built on U-Hill's old site and accommodates Grade 8. Grant doesn't expect the change to occur for two or three years.

But he does expect 50 international students to flock to the new University Hill secondary for an international studies program by February.

The new school could also see more high athletes who use the training facilities at UBC.

"We have a few students here who are elite-level swimmers and the proximity to the campus for training is really important for them, and so we're considering the possibility of expanding that kind of a program," Grant said.

The new school is being built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold standards and is expected to boast high air quality and copious natural light. It will incorporate flexible classroom spaces that could be joined to work on multidisciplinary projects. The school will also include project areas equipped with Wifi that will be surrounded by four or five classrooms and informal spaces where students can hang out and.

With a new school and the consistently high academic achievements of students at U-Hill, Grant anticipates additional inquiries about enrolment.

"We always get inquiries for cross-boundary applications anyway, just because of the reputation of the school," Grant said. "In previous years we haven't been able to accept cross-boundary students, but now we will have the capacity to do that."

crossi@vancourier.com

twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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