While it’s not an ideal situation, the return to school for students living on Hornby Island is “as normal as it can be,” following a fire to the Island’s only school last month, according to a member of the Hornby Island Education Society.
Daniel Arbour, treasurer of HIES – which supports lifelong learning for all community members – said the start of the school year began on time and both teachers and students are making the best out of their current situation.
During the early morning of Aug. 26, a fire broke out at the Hornby Island Community School and destroyed the gym and office area. Hornby Island fire chief Doug Chinnery said the back two-thirds of the building suffered serious smoke damage.
While the first few days of classes were held at Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre, students and staff have now settled into their new short-term spaces: the community hall and education society offices are both serving as classrooms, while a third nearby building is being used as the principal’s office.
Arbour said plans are now underway for a temporary modular school, which the school district hopes to have in place by the new year. They are waiting on a report from engineers to determine the full damage done to the school by the fire, and whether the district might be looking at a complete rebuild or renovation.
He added the loss of the school gym is not only a detriment to students, but to the community as a whole.
“Our rec facilities on Hornby are the baseball diamond, the soccer field and the gym. It’s a big deal, because we don’t have lights on the fields and it’s looking like we won’t be able to have any rec programs this winter.”
HIES started a School Renewal Fund to assist with financial gaps, as the school served not only the Island’s students but the larger community; as well as being the gym, it housed a natural history centre.
While the school building was insured, Arbour said it will take time for the school district and province to apply their financial resources. He added while the fund has grown to around $20,000, many people are unsure of the fund’s purpose.
“A lot of people say ‘we already pay school tax,’ which is true, but those tax dollars go throughout the province. If we want facilities to reflect the community, we may need a top up (for a new school).”
HIES is a registered charity and can provide donation receipts for any amounts above $50.
For more information or to donate, visit hornbyeducation.com/school-renewal-fund/