After being considered for demolition last year, Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district and Regional District of Nanaimo have reached a deal that will see South Wellington School transformed to a community centre.
In a press release, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools and the RDN announced a 25-year lease deal for the school and site that will involve hazardous material mitigation, seismic upgrades and installation of a new roof and fixtures. Work is set to begin in late 2022, with an anticipated opening sometime in 2023.
“The preferred operational model for the facility is through a community association, such as the South Wellington and Area Community Association,” stated the press release. “In-depth discussions with SWACA will be undertaken in the coming months. As part of this operational model, a limited amount of RDN resources would be allocated to ensure successful and sustainable operations.”
The lease will be conditional on the outcome of an alternate approval process seeking approval from residents of RDN Area A (Cedar, South Wellington, Yellow Point and Cassidy), as well as public engagement required by the school board and B.C. Ministry of Education approval.
The RDN and school district were pleased with the announcement.
“One of the RDN’s strategic goals is to improve the social well-being of residents, with a focus on children and families,” said Tyler Brown, RDN board chairperson, in the release. “By converting the school to a community centre, we are providing more opportunities for residents of all ages to be active and socially engaged through a wide array of programming delivered in a multi-functional facility.”
Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, said in the release that the project aligns with goals around environmental stewardship and sustainability and thanked the community and regional district “for coming together on a plan to re-imagine a closed school district facility to one that will benefit the community for years to come.”
Keith Wilson, RDN Area A director, said recent stakeholder engagement shows the local community has indicated it is supportive of the project.
“Indoor recreation opportunities are limited and can be challenging for many individuals to access in this area,” said Wilson in the release. “The new community centre will fill this need and be a welcome addition to South Wellington.”
The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million and will be funded by the RDN Electoral Area A community works fund, with operation coming from the Area A recreation and culture and community parks budgets, the press release said.
South Wellington School was built in 1969 and shuttered in 2013.