History unfolded at the Oct. 18 groundbreaking for Swift Current’s École Centennial and All Saints schools, with the project model setting a new standard for educational collaboration in Saskatchewan.
Premier Brad Wall, Education Minister Russ Marchuk, representatives from the Chinook School Division and Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, city dignitaries and representatives from the Cypress Regional Health Association Board gathered last Thursday to celebrate the first phase of construction for the $51 million joint-use education facility.
“As the local MLA, I’ve heard from both school divisions that new schools were important,” Premier Brad Wall said. “If we want to keep growing in Saskatchewan, we have to invest in projects like this.
“It’s a great day for the 1,000 students that will be attending this facility, and it’s a great day for Swift Current.”
At the program hosted by the Cypress Regional Hospital following the outdoor groundbreaking, Minister of Education Russ Marchuk noted, “I am excited to be at this ceremony during Education Week, Learning Success Today, Leading Success Tomorrow. As an educator, this is the kind of facility that you dream about being able to teach in. Each day here will be a rich learning experience and a springboard to a lifelong path of learning, exploration and health.”
The Government of Saskatchewan has committed more than $33 million toward the facility. Its press release for the event stated, “These two schools will share practical and applied arts space, band rooms and a child care facility. Once completed, the integrated facility will be a community hub for Swift Current, offering a fieldhouse and wellness centre, a library and art gallery, a hospital and long-term care facility, and an aquatics centre, all of which will be readily available to the students attending both École Centennial and All Saints school.”
Liam Choo-Foo, Director of Education, Chinook School Division, began the program by saying, “Not just is this an important day for schools in Swift Current, but I really believe that this project can be held up as a lighthouse example for the entire province on how real integration can actually occur and joint-use facilities can be created in the future.
“Obviously a project of this magnitude doesn’t happen by accident. It’s intentional, with a great deal of planning and a great deal of effort and vision being required.
Furthermore there’s got to be a lot of will in order to make something happen, and when you get great will and cooperation, great things do happen from all involved.”
Celeste York, Director of Education for the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, noted, “Our Board has been working on this for a number of years in collaboration with Chinook and our other partners. We knew that we had to replace St. Joseph’s Middle School because it was a safety hazard, but as we looked further the Board started to think about St. Patrick School and whether or not it met accessibility standards and whether or not it would be able to house 21st century learning, and we found that probably the best way to leverage the use of dollars and work together would be in partnership with Chinook and look at Pre-K to Grade 8 rather than just a middle school. We’ve been working closely together for the last three years and to actually turn the sod today is a wonderful experience.”
Chinook Board of Education Chairperson Randy Beler highlighted the project has resulted from an unprecedented partnership.
“The joint school facility with Holy Trinity is really a very unique undertaking in that the divisions, historically, have worked in isolation. Not only that, but this will be he first new school constructed in this community in over 40 years.
“The cooperation necessary for the success of the project and the schools and students is really extraordinary. … The cooperation between all of us has just been phenomenal. We all have a common purpose, and that is to provide a 21st century learning environment for our children and youth.”
Beler acknowledged the strong commitment from both school divisions and partners.
“This kind of co-operation and enthusiasm is what will help us make history in September of 2014, when the doors of École Centennial and All Saints Catholic schools are officially open for our students to enjoy a unique integrated learning environment. We greatly appreciate the support of our MLA Brad Wall, and would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Education for their contribution to moving the project forward.”
Holy Trinity Board of Education Chair Mark Corbin reflected, “One hundred years ago, in the fall of 1912, construction began on our first school. Today, in the fall of 2012, Holy Trinity is very pleased to break ground with Chinook School Division. Today we officially begin construction of a very unique, innovative and flexible learning facility that embodies the best design for 21st century learning and showcases high-level collaboration among stakeholders.
“Our students will enjoy a close connection with École Centennial, through shared learning in the musical arts, practical and applied arts, print and media resources, and special education programs. We will learn with and from each other, while maintaining our distinctive identities.”
Premier Wall took time to acknowledge the two student representatives who participated in the groundbreaking, Rhett Kendal Popp, Gr. 6 student, St. Joseph’s Separate School, and Katherine Dohl, Gr. 6 French immersion student, Fairview School. They will be among the first students to attend Grade 8 when the joint school opens in 2014.
Wall continued, “We already knew, with respect to the Separate school division, that there was pressure; we needed some facility replacement, period. We needed also to accommodate some growth and that particular project was a little bit higher in the ranking than the public project, although the public was also reasonably high. What allowed for these two to proceed together was cooperation, because if we were building two separate schools, we might not be able to celebrate both at the same time. … But because these two boards - and administrators deserve a great deal of credit because they were prepared to work together in ways that were unprecedented … there are other joint schools in the province but none as integrated as this, none that have the vision of this particular project.
“Many of you will know it’s a $51 million project, $18 million coming from the school divisions, the rest is coming from the provincial government,” Wall noted. “Five hundred students each, two schools, equipped with a childcare centre. We’re going to have new childcare spaces in the city of Swift Current something we need in a city that’s growing. We have more and more young couples moving here, they are across the province, and we can add these childcare spaces in new schools I think is absolutely essential. We’re going to have practical and applied art spaces and it’s just going to be a state of the art facility we can all be very proud of.”