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School District 27 seeks support for new school, Indigenous cultural centre, fieldhouse

The vision is the result of a close working partnership between SD27 and WLFN

School District 27 (SD27) will receive a letter of support in principle from the city of Williams Lake for its vision for a new school, Indigenous cultural centre and indoor fieldhouse where Marie Sharpe currently exists downtown.

SD27 superintendent Chris van der Mark said the impressive proposal is the result of a close working partnership with Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), and one he hopes will prove successful.

“It would be hard for people to look at this and not be excited,” said van der Mark.

The superintendent discussed the proposal with council at the committee of the whole meeting, June 13, and council unanimously agreed the city should write a letter of support for the SD27 capital submission plan.

Coun. Angie Delainey, who is also a school trustee, excused herself from the meeting, declaring a possible conflict of interest.

Van der Mark and council also agreed it would be great to have an open house where some design mock-ups were on display so the public could give input.

Marie Sharpe is the school district’s No. 1 priority for replacement followed by 100 Mile Elementary, van der Mark noted, adding school district enrolment continues to rise in Williams Lake and recent proposed developments is also expected to put increased pressure on existing facilities.

A new building at Marie Sharpe has long been on the district’s wishlist, however, van der Mark believes this latest proposal which revolves around strong community partners including the city, Cariboo Regional District, SD27 and WLFN could be the key to its success.

“We continue to demonstrate that we are an area and a community that can work together to get things done. I think this is an awesome opportunity.”

The proposal is broken down into various cost estimates and configurations.

The price tag for a new school would be roughly $30M, an indoor fieldhouse adds another approximately $15M while the cultural centre would be an additional $10M.

Currently a new $4M daycare facility is being built at Columneetza middle school in Williams Lake as a result of the partnership between SD27, WLFN and the city of Williams Lake.

An indoor soccer facility has also been something residents have been requesting for years.

WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said a replacement for Marie Sharpe Elementary is very much needed.

“Marie Sharpe has served us well, but it’s at the end of its lifespan. Given that a very significant portion of Marie Sharpe’s student body is Indigenous, it would be an amazing step toward reconciliation to create a new campus like the one envisioned by this concept that offers opportunities for education, along with enhanced recreational, athletic and cultural programming,” Sellars told the Tribune. “It’s a spectacular opportunity for collaboration between the School District, First Nations, local governments, the province and potentially even the government of Canada.”

Sellars believes the project, especially in conjunction with the new Cariboo Memorial Hospital build, would revitalize Williams Lake.

“We’ve been talking about an indoor sports facility for more than a decade and it’s been pretty much universally acknowledged that this is the next major piece of recreational infrastructure needed in our city. We have to make this project happen.”

READ MORE: SD 27 garners $3 million to transform old Williams Lake dormitory into 119 childcare spaces

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Angie Mindus

About the Author: Angie Mindus

I began my journalism career in daily and weekly newspapers in Alberta.
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