Selkirk Montessori begins $1.6M expansion

Urban school builds up to fulfill space needs with two-storey addition

Amidst a climate of public school cutbacks and closures, at least one private school is growing, with an expansion project now underway.

The Selkirk Montessori School on the Gorge Waterway has embarked on a $1.6-million plan to construct a two-storey addition, funded through a re-mortgaging of the property.

The updated 171 square-metre structure will house a new library and multi-purpose room. The current library is slated to become a larger middle school classroom community (with an operable wall) for Grade 7 and 8 students, while the space atop the addition will provide a rooftop playground for all students.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to be out in the fresh air,” said Penny Barner, director of Pacific Montessori Society and administrative head of Selkirk Montessori. “Because we’re an urban school, we have a limited amount of outdoor spaces and this just helps provide another.”

Selkirk Montessori is a non-profit organization, with a mandate to provide academic, social, artistic, physical and life skills to its preschool to Grade 8 student population, which has grown from 190 at its inception in 1998 to some 310 students today. Staff and teachers have grown from 20 to 45 full- and part-time employees over the same period.

“When we first moved into the building, we didn’t even have our third floor finished, but over the last 16 years, we’ve expanded into the third floor, we’ve had to take over the multi-purpose room for one of our classes and we’re just really feeling cramped,” Barner said.

She sees the expansion, including a renovation component to be completed over the summer months, as a complete solution to fill their space needs. There are no further expansion plans on the horizon. Farmer Construction has begun the work, estimated for completion in six to seven months.

“Because we have improved our sports programs and we have an excellent music program and language program, parents are seeing more and more the benefits of staying right until Grade 8. We’re seeing more families sticking around.”

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