Plans for a new Westpark Middle School, with innovative ties to minor baseball and Red Deer College, were approved by Red Deer’s Municipal Planning Commission on Wednesday.
The new two-to-three storey public school will be built, starting this fall, on the same site as the aging Westpark Middle School at 3310-55th Avenue. The old building from 1969 will be demolished once the new, slightly larger school opens in September 2019.
There are many, many ‘firsts’ associated with the $13.5 million construction project, said George Berry, of Berry Architecture, a former Westpark Middle School student.
The blueprints, created after consultation with students, teachers and community members, will feature 26 classrooms, four modular classrooms, and many movable walls for flexible and collaborative learning and research.
“We wanted to create the most engaging environment possible,” said Berry, who noted even the school’s mechanical systems will be view-able to students, as a learning tool.
The 5,078-square-metre building that will accommodate 500 Grades 6-8 students will also include washrooms with exterior access for community events, and a concession area funded by the City of Red Deer.
It will have an office for the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association — and the sporting group will also pay for the future development of additional baseball diamonds on school grounds.
Berry said Westpark Middle School sits on the second largest public school site in Red Deer, and its existing baseball diamonds are already heavily used by Red Deer Minor Baseball.
Perhaps the most cutting-edge feature of the project will be a third-floor mezzanine observation area. It will be used by Red Deer College Education Department to view student teachers in classroom settings, and to teach university students teaching techniques without interrupting classes.
Della Ruston, associate superintendent of system services for the Red Deer Public School District — and a former Westpark Middle School principal — said this is an off-shoot of a long-standing relationship between the school and college. Westpark students have received automotive training and other education at RDC, while college education students have trained at the school.
It’s an “exciting” partnership that the provincial government has been watching with interest as a possible model for other communities, Ruston added.
Members of Red Deer’s Municipal Planning Commission unanimously approved the school’s construction plan, with some conditions. It is now going through a re-tendering process, but ground is expected to be broken this fall immediately west of the old school.