It’s a project that’s been a long time coming, and on Thursday, the new Nicola-Canford Elementary School opened its doors to members of the community.

“We’ve wanted to replace Nicola-Canford for probably eight years,” School District 58 secretary-treasurer Kevin Black told the Herald.

Community members toured the new school, which is part of the Ministry of Education’s $10-million modular school pilot program to renew aging infrastructure in rural B.C.

New modular classrooms were built off-site and then reconstructed in Lower Nicola to replace the old school.

SD58 chairman Gordon Comeau said the fact the district had funds to put toward the project helped make it a reality.

In total, School District 58 contributed approximately $1.4 million to the project, while the Ministry of Education put in the lion’s share of the funding at $4.8 million.

“There was no way that we were going to be able to do it without the ministry’s support,” SD58 superintendent Steve McNiven said.

SD58 is one of four school districts in the province using the pilot modular school program.

Prince George, Nechako and Nisga’a also received funding. The project for SD58 is the largest one under the program.

The school now has an open concept with shared project spaces branching off the halls between the classrooms where students can work.

“It allows for a lot more flexibility in how you run your classroom,” Nicola-Canford Elementary School principal Burt Bergmann said.

Bergmann told the Herald the school has about nine classrooms for its 145 students. One classroom was split in two to accommodate special education and the First Nations rooms.

This new facility doesn’t have a computer room, but rather laptop carts. classroom_web

The previous school had 11 classrooms, Bergmann said. However, most of the rooms in the new school are larger than the old ones, he said.

The school has large windows that let in more natural light, Bergmann said.

Also new to the school are meeting rooms, which come equipped with dimmer switches that remember brightness settings.

He said these rooms are used by a variety of school functions such as learning assistance, or by the school’s counsellors.

Bergmann said having these meeting rooms was a huge priority for the school.

The bathroom sinks are also located outside the restrooms, something Bergmann said allows staff to check and see that students are washing their hands.inside_web

He said this concept is employed in schools in the Lower Mainland, and can help reduce bullying in bathrooms.

There are still some familiar sights at Nicola-Canford, however, as the gym, kindergarten room and the library were left intact — albeit with some modifications.

Renovation of the gym is expected in the spring.

The building housing StrongStart, a school-based early learning program for children five and under, is now attached to the school. Before the renovation, the program operated out of a detached room.

Comeau said this school allows for physical expansion of the building with more modulars in case there is an influx of students and additional rooms are needed.

“It does allow for flexibility, whereas [with] bricks and mortar, you might say, you really can’t. What you have is what you have,” Comeau said.