Over $23 million in provincial funding will go towards construction of a new south-side elementary school and the expansion of an existing high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The money, announced by the Ontario government on Friday, will help facilitate plans by the Lakehead Public School Board to try and make maximum use of available space in schools in the face of declining enrolment. The board first proposed the "school renewal plans" in February, 2016.

The provincial money will go towards the renewal plan for Thunder Bay's south side.

The changes wil "allow us to continue to provide high quality academic programming and enhanced opportunities for both elementary and secondary students," board chair Deborah Massaro stated in a written release issued in conjunction with the funding announcement.

The expansion of Westgate Collegiate and Vocational Institute will assist that school in accommodating students from Sir Winston Churchill high school, which will close at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Churchill High School

Sir Winston Churchill CVI is slated to close at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. (http://churchill.lakeheadschools.ca/)

Provincial funds will also be used to build a new elementary school on the Churchill site, which will take in students from Agnew H. Johnston Public School and Edgewater Park Public School, both of which will be closed. The new elementary school is expected to open in the fall of 2019.

The elementary school will be a modern facility, board officials said, including being fully accessible, energy efficient and will have dedicated student drop-off and expanded bus loading zones.

The large plot of land will also be able to accommodate a number of outdoor sports and activities, the board said.

Upgrades to Westgate are expected to include a new cafetorium, a larger fitness space and an additional tech shop, the board said. Classrooms will be repurposed to facilitate new programming; in addition, a separate classroom is expected to support Indigenous programming.