Those curious about the details surrounding site development options for a proposed new Marie Sharpe Elementary School stopped by an informal open house in the lobby of Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex earlier this week.
School District 27 (SD27) hosted the event Monday, July 31 to get public feedback on five options which were displayed for review.
The overall proposal brings a new approach to getting a new school for Marie Sharpe, along with a new collaboration between SD27, Williams Lake First Nation, the city of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District.
“We are working with partners to get a sense of what kind of options and usage are of interest connected to a new Marie Sharpe,” noted the school board to the Tribune prior to the meeting.
Three of the drawings reflect a concept that includes a new school, an attached cultural centre and an indoor multi-use fieldhouse on the downtown site, while two others include the new school and cultural centre without the indoor facility.
A new Marie Sharpe Elementary School has been identified as a need in the district for many years. Residents have also advocated for years for an indoor soccer/multi-use facility in Williams Lake.
The idea of a cultural centre hasn’t been something publicly discussed recently, however, WLFN CAO Kourtney Cook told the Tribune the possibilities are exciting, and the project is something the community deserves.
“It’s not very often that you get the opportunity to have a project of this size come to a rural community of B.C.,” said Cook. “It’s exciting to have everyone at the table collaborating on not only a new school, but the potential of having a cultural complex enclosed within the project. So, very exciting times.”
She described the centre as a welcoming, unique space for everyone in the community.
CRD director Steve Forseth said the power of collaboration is the exciting part of the proposal, adding the CRD is keeping an open mind at this point but will have to sit down with the city and look at the numbers.
Mayor Surinderpal Rathor was also on hand at the open house, and said he thinks the collaboration, and the proposal is a great idea.
“Working together has been the way to go,” adding when they look at a project like this they think of the impact it would have on the city and also the region. He encouraged residents to study the options and provide feedback.
Some residents who checked out the open house did not criticize the project, however, concern regarding loss of outdoor green space for the students was discussed, along with questions surrounding whether the site was big enough to house an indoor facility for future growth.
SD27 superintendent Chris van der Mark said the concept of an indoor facility and cultural centre has never been tied to the Marie Sharpe site before.
He also clarified there are no commitments or promises as of yet to complete any portion of the project. Public feedback, funding, timing and final site options will also need to be approved from other agencies and the provincial government before proceeding.
Previously SD27 superintendent Chris van der Mark told the Tribune the impressive proposal is the result of a close working partnership with Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), and one he hopes will prove successful.
“It would be hard for people to look at this and not be excited,” said van der Mark.
Those interested in seeing the proposal can go to SD27’s website.