Thunder Bay

Work on new Thunder Bay elementary school, high school expansion to start as soon as possible

Thunder Bay's public school board says it will begin work on a new elementary school, and the expansion of a city high school, as soon as possible.

Board calls $23 million in provincial funding 'rewarding'

Lakehead Public Schools will build a new elementary school on the site currently occupied by Churchill high school, which is set to close after the 2017-2018 school year. (http://churchill.lakeheadschools.ca/)

Thunder Bay's public school board says it will begin work on a new elementary school, and the expansion of a city high school, as soon as possible.

Lakehead Public Schools has announced it will close Agnew H. Johnston and Edgewater public schools, as well as Churchill high school, due to declining enrolment.

Elementary school students will instead attend a new public school, to be built on the Churchill property. Churchill students, meanwhile, will be transferred to an expanded Westgate high school.

The entire project is being funded by the provincial government, which last week announced more than $23 million in funding.

"We've got just under $20 million for the new elementary school, so that'll be the total cost of that project," said David Wright, business superintendent with Lakehead Public Schools. "And then just under $4 million for the addition and renovation at Westgate."

School construction to start next year

The new elementary school will, the board said, be fully accessible, energy efficient, and include adequate parking, a dedicated student drop-off area, and expanded bus loading zones.

The goal is to have the new school open by September 2019; work will begin next summer, after the final school year at Churchill (2017-2018) has ended. About 750 students are expected to attend the new school.

Westgate, meanwhile, will get a new, multi-purpose cafetorium (a combination cafeteria and auditorium), and updates will be made to a number of existing areas in the school to accommodate the increase in student numbers.

Work at Westgate is expected to be complete by September 2018.

"Because the turnaround time is pretty tight for that, we've already started working on the planning," Wright said.

Wright said the province's decision to fund the projects was very "rewarding."

"We know our school communities went through a lot with the accommodation review," he said. "It's an emotional experience when you talk about closing schools."

"A lot of time and a lot of effort was spent on the renewal plan, both planning and then actually going through the process."

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