Redesign delays Sunnyside

Sunnyside Elementary is scheduled to be replaced in January 2013. - Brian Giebelhaus photo
Sunnyside Elementary is scheduled to be replaced in January 2013.
— image credit: Brian Giebelhaus photo

Preliminary designs for Surrey’s newest elementary school – including space for a daycare and community programming – are complete.

And while officials are lauding the Neighbourhood Learning Centre concept as “perfect sense,” they’re frustrated a late call from the provincial government to do it means Sunnyside Elementary students will have to wait an extra year for their new digs.

Government gave the green light to replace the aging South Surrey school (at 15250 28 Ave.) in the 2005-’06 school year. School trustees appointed the architect in October 2007, and it was anticipated the new building, at 2828 159 St., would be ready as early as next January.

But direction to build the school as a Neighbourhood Learning Centre changed everything.

“We had to go back and redo all the plans, so basically, we have lost a year there,” Surrey board of education chair Laurae McNally said. 

“The end product will be wonderful, but we’ve lost a year. It would’ve been nice if they’d made up their mind in the beginning.”

Government announced its ‘Neighbourhoods of Learning’ pilot project in September 2008, touting a vision for the future of education as one where people can access educational and community services under one roof. School districts were encouraged to consult with community partners and organizations to come up with innovate and inclusive designs.

The idea followed the province’s 2005 support of the School Community Connections program, in which grants were provided to assist in transforming school facilities into community hubs.

The Neighbourhood Learning Centres program includes the provision of extra capital to incorporate NLC approaches into school plans; all other schools are expected to use existing space to accommodate a wider range of services at each facility.

The concept is anticipated to enhance students’ academic achievement and overall well-being, while helping build more connected communities.

While Surrey has already established a number of community schools, Sunnyside will be the district’s first Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

Surrey school district Supt. Mike McKay said plans for Sunnyside’s replacement were “well underway” when officials were told to make it an NLC. The foundation would have been poured “now, I’m pretty sure, and they said, ‘hold it’,” he said. As a result, “the hole hasn’t even been dug yet.”

Original sketch plans for the school were approved at a February 2010 board meeting. Surrey trustees approved the revised plans at its Feb. 10, 2011 board meeting. They include room for a daycare, a larger gymnasium and some multipurpose rooms that could accommodate community meetings or programs.

Now, the plans need a thumbs-up from officials in Victoria so the architect can create the working drawings. It is hoped construction will get underway this summer, and that the school will be ready for students in January 2013.


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