Nearly 300 students and dignitaries packed into a spacious atrium at the long-awaited Beacon Hill Elementary School for its grand opening on Tuesday.
The bright, freshly painted space was a welcome change from what the kindergarten to Grade 5 students had been used to.
Sylvan Lake school trustee Jackie Swainson recalled kids designated for Beacon Hill had to be temporarily relocated to Steffie Woima and C.P. Blakely Elementary Schools last fall, after a construction delay pushed back the new school’s opening by two months.
Youngsters were taught “in gyms, in libraries and staff rooms… It was crowded and inconvenient. Remember being that crowded?” Swainson asked the students.
Many nodded vigorously.
“Isn’t it really cool to be here now?” Swainson said to a burst of applause from the children — as well as Chinook’s Edge School officials and visiting dignitaries, including Red Deer MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller.
Among them was Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci, who stopped in Sylvan Lake on his way to budget-related talks with business and municipal leaders in Red Deer on Tuesday afternoon. He praised the new $13.3 million school’s natural light and collaborative spaces, including multi-use gathering areas.
“Needless to say, this is an exciting day,” said Ceci, who was wearing a leg brace because of a running injury. “I want to applaud Chinook’s Edge School Division for its vision and for putting students first with this school project.”
The 50,000-square-foot school has about 20 classrooms, as well as a gym, music room and library. It has a 500-student capacity. Although only about 280 students are attending this first year, there are plans for adding Grade 6 in 2017-18, increase the school’s population to 330.
Chinook’s Edge superintendent Kurt Sacher said Beacon Hill School was eight years in the making. It started in the planning stages under the former Tory government. Ceci said the project then received capital and operating funds under Alberta’s NDP government.
“I am so proud of the Sylvan Lake community for their patience,” said Sacher.
Although there were “complexities,” in having to temporarily relocate so many students for September and October, he believes the upside is that “collaborative bonds” now exist between the three schools. “They will be sharing and learning from each other.”
Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre was excited to be at the second happy event this week for his community, after Monday’s announcement of funding for an urgent care centre.