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HomeNewsThe aftermath of SD54's Neighbourhood Learning Centre Consultation

The aftermath of SD54’s Neighbourhood Learning Centre Consultation

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Chartrand

There were exactly 30 adults and 1 youth in attendance for last night’s public consultation regarding the Neighbourhood Learning Centre, which will be incorporated into the new Walnut Park Elementary School.

The consultation was held to get public feedback on how the proposed 486 square meter space would be used. To give you a rough idea, a 486 square meter building is just larger than the standard gymnasium.

SD54 Superintendent, Chris van der Mark, says he doesn’t think Smithers realizes how rare of an opportunity this really is.

“We have the chance to build something that the entire community can truly benefit from and I think we saw that from the wide range of opinions we heard at the consultation. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something really great here, not only from an educational standpoint but a community standpoint as well. At the end of the day, we’re getting a world class facility and with potential community investment, we have the chance to turn this into something we never really dreamed about.”

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Chartrand

A lot of the suggestions at the consultation surrounded missing pieces in the community. What I mean by that is, there seems to be a lack of early childcare providers in the region, as well as, indoor recreational spaces.

“I’d have to agree by saying there was a decent amount of discussion regarding early childcare spaces because it seems to fit so well with the elementary school. Another hot topic of conversation regarded indoor recreational spaces. If you’ve lived in the area for awhile, you may have noticed their isn’t a lot of indoor recreational areas available during the winter months. From a community standpoint, these ideas seemed to be the highest priorities.”

SD54 Secretary Treasurer, Dave Margerm, says they are open to any plans if the right opportunity presents itself.

“At this stage of the discussion, we’re basically an open book. We don’t have a lot of leeway in terms of funding though so that’s where partnerships with stakeholders in the community could go a long way. If specific sporting groups for example want a large indoor turf facility, we can work with that idea but it would take additional funds to support that operation. This makes donations, fundraising, and additional partnerships key in the designing process.”

At this point, nothing is concrete and the people simply want additional services provided to the area, not duplicated ones.

SD54 stands firm by saying the design process, as well as, consultation period will continue for the next 4 months and they hope to unveil a design plan by the end of 2018.

The new Walnut Park Elementary School along with the Neighbourhood Learning Centre, is set to open its doors in September 2020.

More on the announcement of the new Walnut Park Elementary School can be found here.

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