On Monday, Jul. 19 Purcell Collegiate Incorporated (PCI) held an open house at Purcell Golf, the site of the proposed Purcell Collegiate international boarding school, to update the public on the status of the project.
A solid showing of Kimberley residents were in attendance and had the opportunity speak with staff, look at images of principle architect George Berry’s vision, submit some feedback and get a glimpse at some of the cutting edge features pertaining to inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability the school will have.
“We’re really interested in engaging the community, not just to inform and update them, but also to include them,” said CEO/Head of School Duncan MacLeod. “Getting ideas and suggestions is just going to enhance it as a community amenity. It’s great to have events like that and to engage in conversations that are supportive of that. Honestly it couldn’t have gone any better, we were really happy with it.”
The project is now three years in the making. MacLeod said that there have been “several influences and inputs that have caused pivots along the way,” with the most recent and notable example being the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The update we’re doing today is vis a vis where we were at this time last year where we actually did a very similar event in the Platzl,” he explained.
“We changed very slightly, basically we’ve reverted to our original vision for the project, which was always part and parcel of the purchase of the golf course from the Kimberley Golf Club and the relationship that we have with them toward building a school and building them new golf holes.”
The school is targeting both Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) Certified Gold Status and LEED GOLD accreditation.
The former refers to making the entire campus is accessible and engage-able as possible and the latter means the school will be build to the highest level of green building strategies as possible.
“The goal coming in was to make it as accessible, inclusive and sustainable as possible,” MacLeod explained. “Where that led was to these methodologies of guiding assessing and supporting that to ensure we get the best possible results.
“What we discovered is there’s a Rick Hansen Foundation in terms of the accessibility certification that will support the process, guide the engagement of it and then ultimately lead to the best possible result. Same thing with LEED, in terms of ensuring that this is truly a 21st century build and subsequent to that, because the building is so important to the operating and educational model, it becomes a building you can literally learn from not just learn in.”
The school intends to be a place where students of any nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification and/or disability can feel accepted and included.
“Any human being will be able to come to school here, no matter what disabilities you have and do it in a respectful environmentally-considered world,” added principal architect George Berry.
“That’s where ?aq’am and the Ktunaxa Nation have certainly been very significant in ensuring that we’re respecting the fragile planet that we’re on. And that’s been the basis that we’ve taken as a central thesis, of doing something innovative and doing something progressive, but utilizing local materials, local involvement, creating local employment and trying to do as much as we can right here has been front and central through our whole design process.”
The project has had a close relationship with the ?aq’am community of the Ktunaxa first nation from the get go.
“The working relationship with ?a’qam has been phenomenal,” MacLeod said. “The people they have that are capable of supporting an educational opportunity like this for students to come and understand and celebrate, another aspect of their stay in Canada.”
The school will highlight the Ktunaxa language, culture and history throughout. For example, it will feature a map of North America that shows traditional Indigenous territories, rather than provinces and states and there will be bi-lingual signage with English and Ktunaxa, with QR codes you can scan to hear the pronunciation from Ktunaxa elders.
“I’ve been involved with international education in this area since 2006 and you often hear students when they get home, whether it’s on social media or emails to personnel, posting on websites that Kimberley was amazing, that B.C. is beautiful, that Canada’s the best place to study,” MacLeod said.
“And what they’re missing, and what they unfortunately potentially didn’t even get a chance to learn about was that they’re on the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation.”
The school will deliver the BC curriculum to international and Canadian students from grades 7 to 12 and the learning experience will be infused with the First Peoples Principles of Learning and Indigenous Ways of Knowing.
Another key point the open house highlighted was that PCI chose Kimberley as the location for the Purcell Collegiate School with the intent of benefiting the community economically and socially. MacLeod, who comes from a background in public education himself, explained that the school will support and complement the local public-school system, rather than compete with it.
Local students will only be able to attend if they are high-level athletes who would otherwise have to leave Kimberley to attend sports academy programs elsewhere. By not accepting any other local students, PCI intends not to negatively impact enrolment numbers at Selkirk Secondary School and Mount Baker.
Local students will however be welcome to participate in the various high-calibre after-school clubs and sporting activities.
The build of the school is set to begin in mid-October and Berry said construction time will be in the neighbourhood of 18 to 20 months. The school intends to start receiving its first international students in September, 2023.