New elementary school for Smithers

Smithers is getting a new elementary school to replace the aging Walnut Park Elementary school.

The $28.5 million project will see construction of a two-storey school on the northwest area of the current site, with space for 440 elementary students. The new school will have open and collaborative learning spaces, and will be built to highly efficient Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standards.

It will also have space for the StrongStart program, and a neighbourhood learning centre. The Bulkley Valley School District and the Town of Smithers will work together to determine the best use of the neighbourhood learning centre to serve the needs to the community.

“School District 54 has had a focus on innovation and transformation in learning for several years, and we are thrilled to see this project approved,” said Jen Williams, Bulkley Valley School Board chair, in a news release. “We look forward to the opportunity to plan a new and innovative learning space that will help inspire students now, and into the future.”

The current school is showing signs of old age, and the cost of upgrading the facility exceeds the cost of a full replacement.  

Budgeted at $28.5 million, the province is contributing up to $27.6 million for the project, and the Bulkley Valley School District is contributing an additional $900,000. Construction is expected to begin March 2019, and is projected be ready for students to occupy in September 2020, with completion expected in November of that year. The existing building will be demolished following the opening of the new school.