Parents and student athletes at Ecole Argyle Secondary in Lynn Valley say they’re frustrated that a new artificial turf field planned to be part of the new school construction has yet to be built, a year and a half after the secondary school was finished.
“All of the parents are quite disappointed with it,” said North Vancouver dad Ian Walker, whose son is the captain of the senior football team at Argyle.
Walker said from his perspective, “Nobody is in charge, nobody has answers and nothing is happening.”
For some students, the rebuild of Argyle has meant four years without a school field to practice sports or take PE classes on, said Walker.
“The whole rebuilding of the school has been a bit of an ordeal already.”
Because the new school – which opened six months behind schedule in January of 2021 – was built on the footprint of the old school field, athletes at Argyle were necessarily without an outside area to practice on during the years the new school was under construction.
For the most part, students have been making use of playing fields at North Vancouver’s Kirkstone Park, about a 20-minute walk away from Argyle, said Walker.
Walking there and back for PE classes cuts down on the time kids actually have to spend in PE, said Walker. Sports teams, meanwhile, have to carry their equipment and often find themselves changing into their uniforms on the sidelines, he said.
Because the budget for the new school did not include funds for an artificial turf field, the District of North Vancouver stepped in to fund the field as a joint-use facility, at a budget of $3.5 million.
Walker said parents assumed work on the new Argyle field would get underway as a high priority soon after the old school was demolished.
But “it wasn’t until the fall they actually started the groundwork,” he said – nine months after students moved into the new school.
And for months since then there has been next to no activity on the site, said Walker. “It’s just an area covered in a tarp.”
Walker said he and other parents whose kids are involved in athletics have been trying to get answers from both the school district and the municipality about what’s happening. “Whenever we talk with any other parents about it, they’re desperate to get the ball moving,” he said. “They’re all frustrated about it.”
Walker said parents are now concerned that the field may not be ready for the 2022-23 school year. “This will mean that the graduating class of 2023 will have spent their entire high school experience from grade 8 to 12 without a single field to play on at their school,” he said.
According to the school district, the main holdup in starting work on the field has been in finalizing two separate legal agreements between the school district and the municipality.
“The first is a playing field construction agreement; the second is a playing field use and operating agreement, which speaks to joint use and maintenance. Both agreements need to be in place before any work happens,” said school district spokesperson Lisa Dalla Vecchia.
In response to a question from trustee Linda Munro, school district secretary treasurer Jacqui Stewart addressed the Argyle field issue at the May 24 public school board meeting, saying the agreements have been in the hands of lawyers.
One of the biggest issues to be worked out has been what happens after the artificial turf field being built reaches the end of its useful life in about a decade, said Stewart.
According to the District of North Vancouver, detailed design of the new field is also underway while those agreements are finalized.
The municipality anticipates field construction will start this fall, said district spokesperson Catherine Haboly, with "a targeted completion in summer 2023."