News

Funding approved for west Niagara school

By Allan Benner, The Standard

Students from Senator Gibson Public School, College Street Public School, Central French immersion Public School, Twenty Valley Public School and Nelles Public School unfurl a banner as St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley made an announcement of $41 million dollars toward a new west Niagara secondary school  Monday June 19 2017 at the the DSBN Education Centre. The school, that will merge South Lincoln, Beamsville and Grimsby is expected to open in 2020.  Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Students from Senator Gibson Public School, College Street Public School, Central French immersion Public School, Twenty Valley Public School and Nelles Public School unfurl a banner as St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley made an announcement of $41 million dollars toward a new west Niagara secondary school Monday June 19 2017 at the the DSBN Education Centre. The school, that will merge South Lincoln, Beamsville and Grimsby is expected to open in 2020. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

There was only one complaint from the students of west Niagara public schools: they will have to wait three years before their future alma mater is a reality.

Grade 8 students from several west Niagara feeder schools teamed up with District School Board of Niagara representatives and St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley on Monday, to announce $41-million in funding to build a new secondary school, replacing South Lincoln High School, Beamsville District and Grimsby secondary.

The new school won’t be a reality until September, 2020 – just in time for this year’s graduates of local public schools to spend Grade 12 at the yet-to-be-named school before they graduate.

“I would kind of honestly like to start in it, and go through it the whole way,” said Kieran Lupish, a Grade 8 student from Twenty Valley Public School.

Although he will spend the next few years attending classes at Beamsville Secondary School, he said “it’ll be fun” to be part of the first graduating class at the new school.

And after generations of doing their best to beat one other on the sports teams, Senator Gibson Public School Grade 8 student Elijah Wilts said it will be interesting to see west Niagara’s students all playing for the same teams.

“I’m excited for it,” he said. “It’s different schools who were all rivals in sports and stuff.”

DSBN education director Warren Hoshizaki said the new school promises to have top-notch arenas and sports facilities such as artificial turf fields for students like Elijah to play on.

And although Emily Lepp, a Grade 8 student at Senator Gibson, said she’s “not a big sports person,” she said she’s looking forward to the arts programs that the new school is likely to offer.

Board chair Dale Robinson said designs for the new school have yet to be finalized, but preliminary designs are “so creative.”

“The buildings themselves are perfect for students. They’re inviting. They’re not institutional. They’re beautiful, and state-of-the-art providing them with every opportunity that a kid today could want,” she said.

While looking forward to seeing the new school become a reality, Robinson said it was a difficult decision to make since it meant the closure of three existing high schools.

South Lincoln High School is scheduled to close at the end of this school year, and its students will be transferred to Grimsby Secondary starting in September.

Grimsby and Beamsville District will then shut their doors in 2020 when the new school is complete.

“Accommodation Reviews are horrible things, and the decisions you make are hard,” Robinson said. “But when you put the best interests of the kids at the forefront, you realize that this is what you have to do. As unpopular as it may make you in the moment, in the future they will be thanking you for having the courage to do what we believe is right for the students.”

Bradley said the funding was approved as a result of a strong business case made by the DSBN.

“I give full credit to the board,” he said.

In its business case, the board demonstrated financial savings that would be realized through eliminating 1,100 pupil spaces that are currently vacant.

Hoshizaki said school board staff have already been scouting through west Niagara communities, searching for a centrally located plot of land large enough to accommodate a new high school.

The cost of the land purchase, he added, will be provided by the provincial government in addition to the allocation to build the school itself.

“It will be a place where area students come together to learn, to compete and succeed.”

The new Greater Fort Erie Secondary School – the first new public high school Niagara has seen in 40 years – will open its doors on Garrison Road in September.

That school, currently nearing completion, is large enough to accommodate 850 students and cost about $25-million to build.

This west-end school will be designed to accommodate more than 1,500 students.

“When you double the number of students, you know the number of classrooms you need, you know the extra tech classes you need, the extra science labs. That multiplies itself,” Hoshizaki said.

“It’s all the basics for the learning environment to start with and then all the you look at the extras.”

He said the board is also hoping to find partners within the west Niagara communities served by the school, to provide added amenities for students as well as the communities.

For instance, the board teamed up with Fort Erie community groups to add a 500-seat theatre at the new high school there, and it teamed up with the city of Welland to add a public library branch to the Diamond Trail Public School that opened its doors a few years ago there.

“Those are the kinds of things we’re looking for in a partnership,” he said.

Bradley said the new school is part of $1.4-billion being invested during the next two years to support 120 capital projects across the province, including new schools and the renovations of existing facilities.

ABenner@postmedia.com

 



Featured Businesses

Go to the Marketplace »