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New 2-storey school for Smithers

VIDEO: Education Minister Rob Fleming announces $28.5-million replacement of Walnut Park Elementary.

Minister of Education Rob Fleming announced the replacement of Walnut Park Elementary school Thursday morning in Smithers.

“This new school will provide a bright and modern learning environment that will help students thrive in their education,” said Fleming in a media release.

A $28.5-million, two-storey school on the northwest area of the current site will be constructed 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. Bulkley Valley School District 54 (SD54) 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 Bulkley Valley School Board chair Jen Williams in the 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, according to the release.

“The replacement of Walnut Park Elementary is great news for students and families in Smithers,” said Doug Donaldson, MLA for Stikine. “This new school will be a pillar in the community, and ensures students will have a safe learning environment for many years to come.”

The Province is contributing up to $27.6 million for the project, and SD54 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.