Students, teachers, parents, administrators and the public gathered on Tuesday, May 3, after three years of planning and development, to break ground for the new Westview Elementary School.
Superintendent of Schools for School District 47 Jay Yule read out letters from George Abbott, minister of education, and Premier Christy Clark to start the ceremony, both of whom sent their best wishes for the event. City of Powell River Mayor Stewart Alsgard then told the crowd a story of how his mother had her first and only teaching post in Powell River and how it had been at the former Westview Elementary that burned down in the 1950’s.
Tla’Amin (Sliammon) First Nation Elder Dr. Elsie Paul gave the blessing for the site and Alsgard and Powell River Board of Education chair Debby Lewis were brushed with cedar boughs before using shovels to turn the first clumps of earth.
Grief Point Elementary School Principal Jamie Burt also gave some words of thanks and congratulations before grade five students Emily White and Catriona Hopper spoke to the crowd about their excitement over the new school. Emily and Catriona are looking forward to attending Westview Elementary, and think it is pretty neat they will be in the first class to graduate from the new school as grade seven students in 2013.
“I want to see how it’s different and also I’ve never been to a really modern school so it’s really exciting,” said Emily. “I also think that overviewing the ocean is probably going to be a nice feature of the school.”
Grief Point music teacher Richard Olfert led a class of students through two songs at the event that focused on the potential of youth and their importance in the future. Yule said that seeing the students at the groundbreaking testifies to just how important they have been throughout the process of designing the new school. Specific features, such as large music facilities, were included based upon existing programs at Grief Point.
“I think it just reaffirms the amount of time that we’ve taken to carefully plan and not just choose a school out of the box,” said Yule. “I’ll have a sense of relief when I actually see some ground going and construction equipment here but it feels good because it’s been a long road for us of planning, re-planning, location and trying to get the adequate funding.”
Gordon Law from Yellowridge Construction Ltd. also attended the event. Law is the project manager for the school’s construction and said that work on the site will begin shortly. The first job is to rip the track up that currently sits on Gordon Park. He recognizes the importance of finishing the job before September 2012 and that finishing by that date “is a must.”
City of Powell River council passed a resolution at its May 6 meeting to enter into a singe-site agreement with the school board, which provides for the new school to extend over property lines. The motion also states any requirements for a development variance permit regarding the internal property lines of the parcels will be waived. There are 10 separate properties involved in the lot on which the school will be built. The substance of the agreement treats the 10 parcels as one, so no variances to setbacks from the internal property line are required.
Alsgard said at the council meeting the groundbreaking was “a very impressive ceremony.” He also pointed out that the original Westview school stood where city hall is today.