A year and a half after the old school was torn down; construction is officially underway at the site of École Connaught Community School in Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood.
Grade 6 student Paigeracette Webber and her classmates came back to the site of their old school to participate in a sod-turning ceremony on Monday.
“I’m excited about the new school because we’re going to be back in the community where we used to be and I just love how big the school is going to be now, it’s going to be bigger than it was before,” Webber said.
Connaught students are currently being bused to another school location on 4th Avenue and Lewvan Drive until their new school is ready. Webber commented that she really loved the old historic school building because her dad attended elementary school there as well.
She said it’s nice to come back to visit.
“I’m really happy because I really, really miss this ground and I just love everything about it,” Webber said.
Webber will be part of the first Grade 8 graduating class when the new school opens in 2017.
In her speech, Regina Public Schools Board Chair Katherine Gagne didn’t shy away from admitting that it was a rocky road to getting this school built. There was a lot of community opposition to tearing down the historic building, with a whole campaign dedicated to saving the school. Gagne pointed to the importance of keeping up with evolving education standards and putting students first.
Education Minister Don Morgan also spoke to the importance of incorporating some historical elements like archways and a brick wall into the design of the new school.
“There’s going to be some bricks, a base column and a number of architectural components that were in the other building that will be brought over,” Morgan said.
He said the new school will have state-of-the-art teaching equipment and include the latest environmentally friendly design elements. Morgan said the idea is to balance respect for history while taking a step forward.
“When you have something that’s been there for 100 years, there’s certainly a sentimental attachment because there would have been families that would have had two and three generations of people that would have gone to this school,” Morgan commented.
He went on to say that if the building had not been so structurally unsound, there would have been efforts to save it. Morgan said it was not possible to save the building in this case.
Morgan admits that it did take longer to start construction on this school compared to some of the newer builds.
“The challenge that we had in demolition of the old school, it was more complex, there were things, you know contaminants they had to get rid of,” he explained.
Morgan expressed confidence that construction will be finished on time for the opening in the fall of 2017.
The Saskatchewan Government invested $22 million in the rebuild of the school, choosing this time to go for a traditional build instead of a public private partnership (P3).