Work to combine two Cumberland schools on track

A section of Ulverston Avenue between Cumberland Junior School (pictured) and Cumberland Elementary School will be closed to traffic to enable safe passage for students between the two buildings. - Renee Andor
A section of Ulverston Avenue between Cumberland Junior School (pictured) and Cumberland Elementary School will be closed to traffic to enable safe passage for students between the two buildings.
— image credit: Renee Andor

The project to merge the two Cumberland schools into one campus is so far on track to happen this summer.

"We think that we will be able to create the common area between the two schools — so no vehicles, (and) the play area will be moved up onto the road so that supervision is easy," Comox Valley School District secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill told the Board of Education during a project update last week.

"And then (we're) also looking to ensure that we have some greenery and some shrubs planted to start to create that atmosphere so it's not just a closed road that still looks like a road," he added.

Before work can start, the section of Ulverston Avenue between the elementary and junior schools must be closed so attending kindergarten-to-Grade 9 students and staff can safely move between the buildings.

Cumberland council voted last week to move forward in a land-exchange agreement with the school district, which sees the Village-owned Ulverston Avenue section between the schools transferred to the district. The Village would receive a parcel of school district-owned land at the corner of Silecroft Road and Beaufort Avenue in exchange.

Although council voted in favour of the agreement — which ensures public access through the school site is maintained after the section of road is closed — the road closure and proposed subdivision must first be approved. The road closure will be subject to all necessary public consultation.

Meanwhile, the district bought the old medical clinic property adjacent to the elementary school with the intention of demolishing the boarded-up building and installing a parking area. Horswill told the board that plan has now changed.

"The preliminary estimates on the cost to bring (that building) back to life versus demolish it are about the same, so rather than spending money to demolition the building we'll just bring it back to life," he said, later telling the Record that cost is estimated at $90,000.

The district plans to install two classrooms, office and meeting space in the building. This additional space means three portables on the west side of the elementary school can be removed, with parking installed in that area instead.

According to Horswill, the board has approved about $690,000 for the project's budget, and about $433,000 of the budget went to the purchase of the old medical building. The remaining budget is slated for developing the site, including establishing a path system, generally cleaning up the area, and moving parking areas due to the road closure.

Cumberland's expected population growth in future years was a driving force behind the idea for the campus-style approach, giving the district flexibility to handle increasing enrolment numbers.

Horswill noted this plan is only part of a long-term vision for the campus site. The long-range master plan includes, among many other things, outdoor classrooms, covered trails linking all the buildings, a skatepark, tennis courts, and a landscape zone featuring an arboretum, wetland prairie ecosystem, orchard and community garden.


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