A longtime advocate for a new Virginia Park Elementary School in east end St. John’s says he’s pleased the province has finally selected a site.
“The same announcement could have been made three or four years go,” said Peter Whittle, who has been lobbying for a new school for the past nine years.
“It’s a great announcement for the community … I thank (Education) Minister (Clyde) Jackman for agreeing with the consultant’s report.”
Funding has been approved for years, but the project was hung up on site selection.
Whittle is still co-chairman fo the school council, but by the time the new school is built, he will have no children attending Virginia Park.
The new school is expected to be completed by fall 2016.
The provincial government announced today it has accepted an external consultant’s recommendation the existing Virginia Park Elementary School site in St. John’s is the best location for a new school to serve the school community.
“The site selection process has been a complicated one, and I am pleased that we have reached this milestone in the planning process,” Jackman said in a news release. “We have never wavered from our commitment to provide the students of Virginia Park with an enhanced learning environment, and we will now work to move this project forward as quickly as possible.”
In 2009, the province announced it would replace Virginia Park, but the subsequent discovery of a former dumpsite on the property led to a search for an alternate site. During that search, the former Janeway Hospital location in Pleasantville became available, but was ruled out due to the presence of asbestos in the soil.
The department said the Virginia Park site, on Middleton Street, will now be completely remediated before construction begins.
“I can appreciate that this has been a frustrating process for the Virginia Park school community, and I thank them for their patience,” Jackman said.
Whittle said he’s glad the existing school site will be remediated.
And he said with a new school coming, the Eastern School District should rezone the area so students aren’t being bused past the site.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, said in a news release she’s relieved the decision has been made.
“For the six years that I have been MHA for the area, I have been working with parents and teachers to get a resolution,” Michael said.