Northridge Elementary hopes to combine classroom, child-care space

Northridge Elementary could be getting new classroom space to accommodate the needs of both the school and a child-care program.

Funding for the move has been approved by the Greater Victoria school board, which had been looking at adding a portable classroom at the Saanich school to meet space requirements.

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Money for the portable was secured from the Ministry of Education.

But other efforts were in the works, said district secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh.

“What was also happening was there is an out-of-school care program at the school that had the district’s support to apply for capital from the Ministry of Children and Families to be able to add before- and after-school care space.”

Walsh said the direction became clear when the out-of-school care program received tentative funding approval.

“We put the budgets together,” he said.

The plan still needs approval from the province.

The cost of the new space would be about $350,000.

“From a long-term perspective, this is the best opportunity to leverage external dollars to make a permanent build that’s attached to the school,” Walsh said. “It just made a lot of sense.”

The school and the program will each use half of the added space, he said.

“We’ll have a permanent classroom and they will have a permanent classroom,” Walsh said.

The new space would belong to the school district, he said, “and we give [the child-care program] a commitment of access for 10 years.”

Walsh said the district expects it would have some use of the program’s section during school hours.

Like many school districts across B.C., the Greater Victoria district has had to add many new classrooms to comply with the 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that restored B.C. teachers’ contract language related to class size and composition. That has included adding both conventional portable classrooms and longer-lasting structures that the Greater Victoria district calls “learning studios.”

Another learning studio is in the planning stages at Central Middle School.

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association has said reopening closed schools should be considered as a way of meeting space needs. Seven elementary schools were shut between 2003 and 2007 due to declining enrolment.

A district committee has been examining the issue.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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