The town of Smithers is giving a little leeway to the Francophone elementary school’s move to their new lot across the highway.
Late last year, the provincial government approved $2.1 milion for The Francophone School District 93 to purchase the land formerly used for the old Chandler Park School for a permanent home for école La Grande-ourse.
The School District’s plan is to relocate école La Grande-ourse, which is currently operating from a leased building on Fulton Avenue to their new property at the southeastern corner of Vancouver Street and Third Avenue and develop it.
In Phase 1, the school is proposed to operate from portable structures, to be placed close to and accessed from Third Avenue. Their intent is for the school to be operated in the portables in the fall of 2023, at a cost of almost $4 million.
Eventually, a new school will be built on the consolidated parcel, on the side fronting Vancouver Street, contingent on factors such as funding availability and enrolment levels. The expected timeline for constructing a permanent facility fronting Vancouver Street is 5-7 years.
At its last regular meeting, council approved a development variance permit to vary the town’s subdivision servicing and development standards bylaw with the condition that deferring the off-site works on Vancouver Street shall only apply to Phase One of their plans, which involves the portable structures. And that the school district submits a formal letter promising to complete all necessary off-site works, such as curbs and gutters, when a permanent school is built in the future.
Some councillors were uneasy about it, worried that a new permanent school will never be built, meaning the offsite works will never be completed.
Councillor Frank Wray said he shared some of those concerns but said in the long run, it will be better to defer the work.
“They can build the school the year after we get them to put the off-site works in and then they’re gonna get wrecked once the school’s built,” he said. “We didn’t make Walnut Park pave the road first. We made them pave it after they were done building the school. I hear the concerns and I share some of the concerns but at this point in time, to protect our infrastructure, we need to make sure that the infrastructure goes in after the school is constructed.”
A couple of neighbours near the property wrote letters to council expressing their concerns as well, worried that groundworks could be postponed forever, and the use of Third Avenue for entrances and exits as it is already a busy street.
Mayor Gladys Atrill said she was hesitant to give the variance but agreed to it.