Worried parents and students have started a petition that calls on the Yukon government to build a temporary gym for F.H. Collins.
The aging high school’s gym will be torn down in March, when construction of a new school begins in earnest. Students are expected to make do without a gym for two and a half years, during which time they would be shuttled to other facilities, like the Canada Games Centre and Yukon College.
At a public meeting Thursday, deputy minister Valerie Royle said that building a temporary structure on the F.H. Collins site is too expensive and the option is not on the table.
The petition, started by parent Keith Halliday and championed by a number of students, has reached nearly 200 signatures since Friday.
Tristan Sparks is one of students who was at the public meeting and is helping spread the word about the petition.
“We’re hoping to let them know that we’re worried,” said Sparks. “We want a temporary gym facility.”
“My sister is in Grade 8. She won’t have a gym until she’s in Grade 12,” he said.
Sparks plays on the Grade 10 Warriors volleyball team, and the new school’s gym won’t be ready until after he graduates. He worries that losing the gym will mean giving up the best years of his volleyball career.
“Our senior years are the most fun because everyone gets more competitive. If we get enough people to voice their concerns, (the Department of Education) might listen,” he said.
Halliday was also at Thursday’s meeting.
“I was really struck by how strongly the parents and students there reacted to the idea of not having a gym. Many spoke quite strongly against the government’s plan,” said Halliday.
He said the government dropped the ball by not planning for a gym, and now it is scrambling. The current plan, which would see students busing or walking to various other facilities around town, just isn’t good enough, said Halliday.
“Once the government decided to save money by keeping the shop wing (of the old school) and forcing them to tear the gym down, it should have been an integral part of the plan to have a gym on site. It’s a major planning error. The department should have listened to parents and others from the beginning who were saying, ‘You need to solve the gym problem,’ at the very beginning,” he said.
The petition calls for the territory to build a temporary structure similar to the one that was used for the Canada Winter Games. The structure could then be kept as a permanent asset for the new school instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars busing students around Whitehorse, said Halliday.
At Thursday’s meeting, Royle explained that a temporary structure would cost an estimated $1.3 million based on one quote from a local company. The current busing plan has a budget of $180,000, she said.
Education spokesman Chris Madden told the News Monday morning that the department is aware of the petition, but its position remains unchanged. “The tent is off the table.”
The petition can be found online at www.change.org/petitions/yukon-department-of-education-build-an-on-site-gym-structure-for-students-during-fh-s-rebuild
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org