The B.C. government is giving an expected $4 million to revamp Nicola Canford Elementary School in Lower Nicola, officials from Nicola-Similkameen School District 58 said.

Eight modulars in the design phase are slated for assembly starting in February, and will be built directly into the school, replacing 10 of 11 classrooms that have steadily diminished over time.

“This building is old and really needs some help,” SD 58 Supt. Bob Peacock said, noting the kindergarten classroom will remain in place. “With the financial constraints, [the Ministry of Education] never had the dollars to replace it.”

The Ministry recently established a $10-million modular school pilot fund to see if the structures could be used as a regular way of providing classroom space at ramshackle buildings in rural B.C.

“They approached us to say, ‘Are you interested in doing it?'” Peacock said. “Well, of course we are interested in doing it.”

The province is investigating modular construction because it is cheaper and more time-efficient to build these structures, rather than completely replacing schools.

Some areas of Nicola Canford only need renovation, Peacock said. The majority of the gym is in good condition.

School Principal Burt Bergmann said stakeholders were, prior to the funding announcement, looking to complete a massive repair to the majority of the school.

“Our bathrooms are old, our roof was leaking, actually, this September in our computer lab,” he said. “We have been doing patchwork for years and years and years, so they were going to put money into getting it up to what would be a suitable level and even then it would still be an old school.”

He said members of the community have told him how excited they are to be a prime focus of funding.

“It’s a real commitment from our school district for this area, and I know that was a concern of parents,” he said. “It was really nice to have the parents have that confidence from the district.”

SD 58 officials have been working with engineers and the Ministry of Education to find a design that will accommodate the need at Nicola Canford.

Peacock said the entrance will be renovated; the office, staff room, washrooms and hallway will be moved; and the hall will likely be adjusted 10 feet towards the library to accommodate the new entrance.

While the floor space will decrease, Peacock said there is more than enough room to accommodate current students and any enrolment increase.

The modulars are transported on a truck to the construction site where they are assembled, SD 58 Chairman Gordon Comeau added.

“Really, part of this will be to gut a section out of the old structure, do a bunch of renovations to accommodate the new design, and then have the classrooms added in,” he said, noting each modular represents one classroom. “The ceilings and windows are very high and this is nothing like portable classrooms. It blends right into the school.”

SD 58 is one of four school districts in the province that will pilot the modular school program.

Prince George, Nechako and Nisga’a also received funding.

“We were really happy that we were chosen,” Comeau said. “We are the largest district in this pilot project and it’s important for us to make this work. The bottom line is the community is going to have a beautiful school.”

He said SD 58 staff have worked with the construction company hired to design and assemble the modules to meet the district’s needs.

Class Disruption Expected

Peacock said students will have to be relocated during construction.

“We need to have a conversation with the community and the staff out there to see what that would look like,” he said. “Do we move people into open classrooms that we have at schools? Do we look at space in Lower Nicola, or do we do a combination of?”

He said the community discussion will start after the upcoming confirmation of timelines. Construction is expected to start in February and finish before the start of the 2013 school year in September.

Approximately 160 students attend Nicola Canford.

The modular classrooms have a 40-year lifespan.