A group of Kindergarten students from Langley’s James Kennedy School were among the first to look over the first of 138 new school portables under construction in Aldergrove on Tuesday morning.
The youngsters all gave their thumbs up to the roomy and naturally-lit double-wide portable classroom. The brightly-coloured panels in the tall ceiling and the floor-to-ceiling windows at one end of the unit got especially high marks.
Government representatives, including B.C. education minister Margaret MacDiarmid, also got a firsthand look at the first completed portable and several others still on the assembly line at the Shelter Industries Inc. and Greensmart Manufacturing Ltd. plant in Aldergrove Industrial Park.
More than 110,400 students in 25 school districts across B.C. will be accommodated in the 138 modular classrooms, starting this fall.
And while they are designed to be moved quickly and easily into areas as shifting school populations demand, there is nothing cheap or substandard about the units.
The structural integrity means each unit will have a lifespan of about 40 years, and the massive beams give them solid protection from heavy snow loads, heavy winds and earthquakes. This, along with seven-inch thick wall insulation, makes the units suitable for any location in the province, from the lower mainland to the far north.
Shelter Industries spokesman Rick Munn said each unit also comes with a modern HVAC system that is adaptable for whatever type of service is available in each community, whether it be natural gas, propane, electrical or connection to the hot water system in the main school building.
Interior walls are high-quality wood panelling over drywall, and electrically-activated screens roll down over the windows to protect them from vandalism.
Shelter Industries currently has a full-time crew of about 55 tradespeople on this contract but Munn expects that additional shifts will be hired in order to meet the September deadline for the 138 units.
“We’re working to have them all completed by June so that they can be put in place for the first day of school,” said Munn.
Langley board of education chair Rod Ross and superintendent Cheryle Beaumont joined the tour, along with MLA Mary Polak, and said they also approved of the new design and the attention to the little details and ideas that were contributed by teachers.
Beaumont noted that the 40-year lifespan of the modular classrooms was almost as long as a new school building.
Langley school district is currently preparing a site at James Kennedy school for one of the units, which will be used for all-day Kindergarten classes this fall.