Whitehorse Elementary School to be replaced with new school in Takhini

·3 min read
École Whitehorse Elementary School. The downtown school will be replaced with a new facility beside the Takhini Elementary School on Range Road, the government said Friday. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)
École Whitehorse Elementary School. The downtown school will be replaced with a new facility beside the Takhini Elementary School on Range Road, the government said Friday. (Steve Silva/CBC - image credit)

École Whitehorse Elementary School will be replaced with a new school beside Takhini Elementary School on Range Road, Yukon government officials said Friday.

Construction of the new school is expected to cost about $48 million and will start once the Whistle Bend Elementary School, currently under construction, is finished, according to Nils Clarke, the territory's highways and public works minister.

Construction of the Whistle Bend school began in 2021 and is expected to be completed by fall 2023.

Clark said the cost to renovate École Whitehorse Elementary School, which was built in 1950, in its current downtown location would be 1.4 times more than building a new school.

It is the first school to be addressed in the government's plan to replace or renovate aging Whitehorse schools.

Earlier this year, government documents identified four schools in Whitehorse — Whitehorse Elementary, Christ the King Elementary, the Wood Street Centre, and Takhini Elementary School – that are at high risk for seismic activity.

At the time, Education Minister Jeanie McLean said one of those facilities was slated to be replaced in the department's five-year capital plan, and added that structural work at the three other schools would be addressed through longer-term renovations and replacement plans.

Planning process

McLean said her department is launching a planning process to build the new school that will include discussions with stakeholders, including the school community, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council and other partners.

"We have allocated $200,000 in this year's budget to begin that planning process," she said.

McLean said the new school will integrate outdoor learning and new technology.

"The newly-built school will seamlessly connect classrooms to outdoor spaces, use open learning spaces, have better acoustics, and incorporate student inclusivity into the design through cultural spaces, sensory rooms, quiet learning spaces, and gender inclusive and universal-access bathrooms," she said.

Mike Rudyk/CBC
Mike Rudyk/CBC

Clarke said the new school could result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the current Whitehorse Elementary School, of 261 tons every year.

"That is equivalent to making 1,153 round trips from Whitehorse to Dawson City in a car," he said.

McLean also said talks will also start with the Chiefs Committee on Education and the Yukon First Nation School Board about the future of the Takhini Elementary School.

She added that consultations will begin this fall on a long-term plan to replace or renovate the city's other aging schools.

'The building itself is over 70 years old'

Clarke said Whitehorse Elementary was chosen to be replaced first because it has "accessibility, lighting and acoustic issues."

He said the Highways and Public Works department looked at the elements that influence the quality of the space such as integrated technology and acoustics, as well as the condition of the building including its energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and seismic conditions.

"Whitehorse Elementary School continues to rank highest across both categories," he said. "The building itself is over 70 years old and nearing the end of its useful life."

Clarke said the government isn't sure what it's going to do with the current Whitehorse school building once the new school is built.

"We will assess potential future uses, but certainly one possibility is demolition but that hasn't been confirmed yet," he said.

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