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What's Going Up: New classroom building coming to Pickering College

School has raised more than $20 million for construction, expects to open building in 2024
A rendering of Pickering College's new classroom building, expected to be finished construction in 2024.

Pickering College is well on its way to building a new, 50,000-square-foot facility it says will almost double its classroom space.

The private school is working toward a construction permit for the new facility, raising more than $20 million from its community to build it. The new building will include arts, a junior school, a home for the college radio station, and a new theatre.

The school held a ceremonial sod turning in November, according to communications manager Naomi Côté. She said the building will be an important milestone for the school and will be built to accommodate a growing number of students.

“It’s going to be a fully accessible building that will architecturally innovate and set a very modern tone,” she said. “We do need some additional facilities for our students to have the space we require for learning. We feel this is the way forward.”

The building has been in the works for five years, Côté said, but fundraising has only come together in the past year. The school has readied the construction site on its north field but is still waiting for permits on construction and site servicing. The school expects to break ground in the spring.

The name of the building pays homage to the school’s roots. It was founded by Quakers as West Lake Boarding School in 1842. The school said it would use “Quaker building principles,” incorporating light, symmetry, simplicity and sustainability into the design.

“The building has been long anticipated,” Côté said. “We can’t wait.”

Newmarket director of planning Jason Unger said the municipality is still reviewing a site plan application. It has approved a conditional building permit agreement so the school could get to work on the foundation of the new building. As site plan matters are delegated to staff, council approval will not be required. 

The project’s costs have ballooned over the past year after the school exceeded a $10-million initial fundraising goal, raising $17 million by May. The school is now trying to get to $25 million, Côté said, due to inflated construction costs.

“We realized it would be a little more than we anticipated,” she said. “When you get the actual costs, there is a difference.”

Though this is the only school expansion expected in the near future, there is an outdoor education property in the works, Côté said. The school expects to get property in the Whitchurch-Stouffville area from longtime employee Charles Boyd, who died in 2021. That will be the next capital priority after the West Lake House, but that is still years away, Côté said.

The new classroom building is expected to have an 18-month construction time. The school plans to open it in fall 2024.

“It’s something we’re very excited about,” she said. “We’ll continue to talk more about this build as it moves forward.”