A large number of Mary Hill residents must be looking forward to the brand new Pitt River Middle School scheduled to open the fall of 2013. Our two children attended Pitt River Middle and it is great to see the school district is building a new school for our community. I actually remember the school when it was Mary Hill Junior High, grades 8 to 10: so it has been around a VERY long time and certainly has earned a major update!
A ground-breaking held Tuesday for the $20-million Pitt River middle school replacement has staff and students excited they could soon see work begin on the long-awaited project.
“We want to see some bulldozers,” said principal Todd Clerkson, who along with staff, students and parents is anticipating a late-February or early-March construction start.
On Tuesday, Education Minister George Abbott joined School District 43’s board of education chair, Melissa Hyndes, for the ceremony for the project to replace the 50-year-old middle school.
The project is one of five announced by the province in 2009 in a $128-million commitment to build four replacement schools: James Park elementary and Pitt River middle in Port Coquitlam; Centennial secondary in Coquitlam; and Moody middle in Port Moody. As well, a new middle school in Anmore has just received approval for construction.
Clerkson said Pitt River’s Grade 6 students are the most excited about the project because they are likely to be in their last year of middle school when the building opens in the fall of 2013.
Some of their older brothers and sisters may have been part of a brainstorming session held a couple of years ago by the architects and Clerkson said student input has been included in the design.
“For the kids, it was more about the easy use of technology so we have ceiling-mounted projectors in every classroom, the wireless will be 10 times better and there will be plenty of power outlets. They wanted lots of areas for socializing and play, so we’ve got a really big library,” he said.
There will be lots of glass and casual seating in the library, Clerkson said, and an outdoor gathering area in front of the school, well away from traffic.
The school’s design is also expected to reflect the organization of the middle school in teams or pods, Clerkson said, with classrooms arranged in groups of four, with a collaboration area in the hallway.
Other key features of the school will be the inclusion of a neighbourhood learning centre with an aboriginal welcoming centre, community school programs and offices, a satellite office for the Settlement Workers in Schools program, a sports co-ordination and development centre and a Fraser Health community programming office.
One of the advantages of having the school built as a community hub, Clerkson said, is that the gym will be larger and there will be a big multi-purpose area that can be used by the school as well as for community events.
“As a school, we benefit from something that will be bigger than otherwise,” he said.
There will be some growing pains, however, as traffic and parking will have to be altered to make way for construction.
Although the groundbreaking took place this week, it will be some time before construction begins because SD43 has to first choose a contractor.
The tendering process concludes Thursday and the district expects to hire a contractor by the end of the month, said Carey Chute, principal of facilities initiatives.
According to minister Abbott, the new school will reflect changes in education with supports for new technology “and the flexibility to embrace collaborative learning, a central idea within our new BC’s Education Plan.”