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Two days, two new schools for the Comox Valley

The Hornby Island school replaces one destroyed by fire in 2018

Students in the Hornby Island and Lake Trail school communities each have a new school building to celebrate.

School District 71 opened two new school buildings on Oct. 7 and 8, starting with the new community school on Hornby.

The building on Sollans Road replaces the old one that was badly damaged by arson in late August 2018. While firefighters and community members were able to save much of the old school, it was not enough and had to be replaced.

RELATED STORY: Fire destroys much of Hornby Island Community School

The Ministry of Education later approved the school district to go ahead with a new community school, including a full-size gym to serve a range of community uses. The project came in both under budget and ahead of schedule for the opening, which was slated for 2022.

The opening ceremony brought together elected officials, school district senior staff and guests such as Brian Smith, a former minister of education.

The speakers recounted the efforts to save the school as well as the collaboration and co-operation required for the project to replace the school.

Smith noted how the importance of having a full-sized gym for the school, though small, also serves as a hub for community programs.

“A full-sized gym is the lifeblood of this island,” he said.

Smith also credited former another former education minister, Rob Fleming, for supporting the extent of the project.

Superintendent Tom Demeo also credited the design of architect Bradley Shuya as well as the builders from AFC Construction and owner Alan Fletcher. He noted it was not common to see the owner of a company on the roof pounding in nails.

Later, Shuya explained the design of the school and why it was not situated in the same spot as the previous building. He told the Record the aim was to provide more sunlight to the classes for the students in the morning, with less of the hot afternoon sun. He also noted the position of the sunlight went into determining the layout for the library and the gymnasium.

“We turned it about ninety degrees from the way the school used to be,” he said.

During the presentation, vice-principal Alissa Pratt described the building as “state of the art” but added,” It’s really about the people.”

At the end of the presentation, the dignitaries gathered in front of the school, with the children watching, to cut the ribbon.

A new Lake Trail school

The following morning, many of the same people from the school district arrived at Lake Trail Community School in Courtenay to open the new middle school building with a ribbon-cutting.

Again, circumstances dictated the need for a new building, though in this case, rather than a fire, the need was to replace an older school with a new one built to current seismic standards.

Following a greeting and songs from K’ómoks First Nations members, speakers outlined the process of erecting the new facility. Again, the speakers credited the work of the architect and builders, in this case, Iredale Architecture and Heatherbrae Builders.

Board of education chair Sheila McDonnell, who had also spoken at the Hornby Island opening, talked about what going to the school had meant to her son, who had gotten interested in robotics at Lake Trail and which influenced his career choice.

“Lake Trail students get to find themselves and find support,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Lake Trail Community School principal gives a guided tour of new facility

Principal Gerald Fussell talked about how long the school seemed like a construction zone, but how the school team were able to incorporate ideas around team teaching, flexible learning and the surrounding green space.

“School should be a place where people want to be,” he said.

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The new Hornby Island Community School was officially opened on Oct. 7. Photo by Mike Chouinard
The new Hornby Island school building is situated to take the best advantage of the sun. Photo by Mike Chouinard
The new school was built because of a need for a seismic upgrade at the old site. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Lake Trail principal Gerald Fussell credited many for making the new school happen. Photo by Mike Chouinard
MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard (left) and school board chair Sheila McDonnell reveal the new dedication plaque at Lake Trail. Photo by Mike Chouinard