A gym is a school’s heart

I write to comment on the construction of a replacement building for F.H. Collins Secondary School. I formerly attended the school and graduated in 2000.

I write to comment on the construction of a replacement building for F.H. Collins Secondary School. I formerly attended the school and graduated in 2000.

Apparently it has been decided that the gymnasium will be the first part of the old building to be demolished and the students of F.H. Collins will have no gymnasium for a minimum of two and a half years while the new building is being constructed.

I have no doubt that the decision to proceed with construction in this manner was made reasonably and that economic and other practical construction concerns were well thought out. That being said, I am concerned that the decision fails to give proper consideration to the ill effects it would have on individual students’ high school experiences and the school community environment as a whole.

Individual students need access to spaces that allow them to explore their interests. For students with an interest in sport, the extra time they spend in a gymnasium can be as important to their development as the time they spend in class.

On a personal note, I can confidently say that my life experiences would have been profoundly different had the gymnasium not been available while I was a student at F.H. Collins. I spent many hours in the gymnasium participating in organized activities, but it was the daily unorganized meetings and pick-up games that defined my life as a high school student.

The gymnasium was a place where I was able to explore my interest in sport, form bonds with like-minded people, discover my limits, and learn to deal with challenges. The many hours I spent in the F.H. Collins gymnasium allowed me to pursue sport at the university and professional levels.

The school community needs spaces where students can gather and be active together. The F.H. Collins gymnasium hosts assemblies, high school sport competitions, and intramural activities that bring students together through activity during cold winter months.

After-school sports teams provide opportunities for students to form life-long bonds with teammates and coaches. A community of student athletes is formed as a result of having student athletes of all ages practice, play, watch, and learn together at school.

The argument that arrangements can be made to minimize the impact is weak. Organized physical education classes and sports team practices could continue. But the reality for individual students is that they will be unable to fully explore an interest in sport or form a solid community of student athletes without easy access to a gymnasium at their school.

To many students, a school’s gymnasium is its heart. It is an essential space that plays an important role in creating a sense of school community.

A new gymnasium should be built in a new location so that the old gymnasium can remain standing throughout the demolition and construction process. While some inconvenience in a transition situation is acceptable, forcing the students of F.H. Collins to go without their gymnasium for two and half years is not.

Jake Cabott

Vancouver, BC