$10.4M in funding for replacement of arson-hit school on Hornby Island

A 95-seat school is being built on Hornby Island to replace one that was badly damaged by an arson fire in August 2018.

On Friday, the Ministry of Education announced $10.4 million in funding for the new school, as well as $27.2 million for a seismic upgrade at Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay.

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The Lake Trail project will also include a $1.5-million child-care centre.

Both projects in the Comox Valley School District are expected to be completed by September 2022.

After the Hornby Island school fire, its 50 students were initially split between the community hall and the Hornby Island Educational Society building.

Later, however, the students were able to move into a temporary school composed of nine modular buildings that provided space for three classrooms, a library and an administration building, at a cost of $1.5 million.

Education Minister Rob Fleming, district officials and school board members travelled to Hornby on Friday for a presentation about the new facility. Hornby is home to about 1,000 people.

Board trustee Sheila McDonnell, a longtime Hornby resident whose two children went through the old school, said the funding announcement for a new school on the island is “huge.”

“It’s fantastic,” said McDonnell. “We’ve known from early on that the district and the ministry were going to support a new school.

“Now it means that they can go ahead with the design, and the construction isn’t going to be held up.”

While the new school will house 95 students from kindergarten to Grade 7, McDonnell said the former school was designed for about 100 students and also had an addition.

“At its height, we had about 150 kids and then there was a change in the demographic, but we’re back on a growth path.”

McDonnell said the fire was devastating for the community.

“We were there watching the school and seeing the flames and seeing our fire department, our volunteers, some of whom went to that school, seeing it burn, seeing them working hard on it,” she said. “Right away, people were talking about how it really wasn’t the building that was so important, it was the experiences that we’d all created together.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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