Babine Elementary-Secondary School (BESS) opened its doors in 1967 to accommodate Granisle’s then rapidly growing Population. At one point, the school had approximately 500 students.
Currently, 26 students are enrolled in the kindergarten to grade 12 school and, up until a few months ago, they were using the same facility built over 40 years ago.
“It was an older facility that hadn’t got any renovations and it was due for an upgrade,” said vice-principal Dylan Watt.
Given declining enrolment rates and the building’s deteriorating condition, newly designed modular classrooms were determined as the best solution to revitalize the school.
Modular classrooms feature “a bright, open design with high ceilings and windows for plenty of natural light,” according to a press release from the Ministry of Education. In contrast to portables, modular classrooms are a more permanent solution to providing school space and have a designed 40-year life span, said the ministry.
The provincial government provided funding of $5.28 million for five new modular classrooms, and School District 91 Nechako Lakes committed $2 million to the renovation of the remaining part of the original building. The school district and the Ministry of Education signed an agreement in April 2013.
Initial demolition of the original building started in the fall of 2013, and the new modular classes arrived during the summer of 2014.
Students and staff have already moved to a new part of the building, but the revitalization is only partially complete. Watt said they are hoping to have their common area – which includes a multipurpose room and a kitchen – ready to use by Nov. 24. The gym, however, might only be done around the new year.
The revitalization project was originally scheduled to be completed by September 2014, but due to delays, it might not be finished before January 2015.
“It’s taking a little longer,” said Watt. “But once it’s done, it’s going to be a fabulous facility.”
Watt said the new building will be a “21st-century facility,” equipped with computers, Wi-Fi and smart boards.”
“Pretty much what they are going to see is a much more modern facility,” he said.
This new five-classroom modular project is part of the B.C. government’s $16.91-million modular school pilot program to renew aging infrastructures in rural B.C.
“I’m thrilled that Nechako Lakes Board of Education and Granisle residents are part of government’s modular school pilot program,” said Minister of Education Don McRae in a press release. “Babine’s students and staff will have a safe, modern school close to home.”
John Rustad, MLA for Nechako Lakes, said in a press release that Babine Elementary-Secondary School’s replacement has been a “high priority” for him.
“I know the installation of new modular classroom space means a great deal to Granisle and Tachet reserve families,” said Rustad. “It’s a long bus ride from Granisle to Burns Lake and I am glad students have a modern school close to home. From a safety perspective and a distance perspective, I think it’s great that we have been able to find a solution for those students.”
Some of the school’s secondary students have been shooting short videos to document the progress of building’s revitalization. Community members can check the videos by visiting http://www.sd91.bc.ca/babine_re-vitalization.