The site where SD5 will be building a new school in Fernie at Whether it is a new elementary school or a new middle school depends on the Ministry of Education. (Image courtesy of Google maps)

The site where SD5 will be building a new school in Fernie at Whether it is a new elementary school or a new middle school depends on the Ministry of Education. (Image courtesy of Google maps)

School district envisages high-capacity middle school for Fernie

SD5’s preferred option for a new school is a larger middle school which would allow for EIDES and FSS to become K-4 and 9-12 respectively

The City of Fernie has lent it’s support to a push by School District 5 (SD5) for the province to fund a 550 capacity 5-8 middle school on land it acquired in late 2020.

In a letter to the city on February 14, board chair of SD5, Frank Lento explained that the district believed that a higher-capacity middle school with more facilities would better meet the needs of the community, over alternatives for a smaller capacity K-6 school on the same site. The SD5 is currently seeking stakeholder support.

“Although more expensive than another elementary school, (a middle school) would serve the young families in the community and most importantly, the intellectual, physical, social, human and emotional stages of development of students of similar maturity,” he said.

According to Lento, SD5 would consider a complete re-structure of the schools in Fernie which would see Fernie Secondary School made into a 9-12 and Isabella Dicken Elementary into a K-4 to make room for the new middle school.

According to the SD5, the move would allow for better student age groupings, and lend to enhancement of the learning experience.

“A middle school in our growing community is important not only because it adds an additional school to address space constraints, but more importantly it addressed the age of students at the time of transition to the middle and secondary schools.”

The SD5’s preferred new middle school at 15 and 40 Whitetail Drive and 30 and 50 Cokato Road (at the intersection of Cokato and Montane Parkway), would include ‘Neighbourhood Learning Centre’ (NLC) options, such as performing arts and conference spaces as part of a full-size gymnasium design that would allow for greater extra-curricular options.

The school could also include space for childcare, and before and after school care.

NLC options are required to be included in designs according to the Ministry of Education.

SD5 requested that the city support the middle school option in their Project Definition Report (PDR) to be forwarded to the provincial government. As part of the PDR, the school district will also be including designs and proposals for smaller elementary schools as well.

SD5 also asked the city to consider the donation of in-kind labour and machinery costs for infrastructure and/ or a reduction in municipal permit fees and charges in order to strengthen the middle school proposal.

The City of Fernie council voted to write a letter of support, noting the NLC and full-size gymnasium would be highly beneficial for the community due to additional indoor space and child-care potential. The city did not touch on any in-kind contributions or reduction in permit fees and charges in the letter, which was forwarded to SD5 on Apr. 26.

The SD5 will be forwarding its PDR to the Ministry of Education before the end of August 2022 for review. Details on the timeline will become available in coming weeks.

READ MORE: City of Fernie gives thumbs-up to re-zone land for future school

READ MORE: Province splashes cash on increased school capacity for Fernie
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