Presley McDonald

Presley McDonald

Sod turned for Red Deer’s new francophone school

After several years of anticipation, staff and students at Red Deer’s only francophone school celebrated Tuesday’s sod turning for a larger building.

After several years of anticipation, staff and students at Red Deer’s only francophone school celebrated Tuesday’s sod turning for a larger building.

The school band played and the rest of the elementary students of Ecole La Prairie School sang while City of Red Deer and Greater North Central Francophone Education Region No. 2 dignitaries turned the sod where the new kindergarten to Grade 12 school will be.

It will be located just south of the existing school between 34th and 35th Streets and east of 49th Avenue, next to the Kin Kanyon park trails.

Grade 1 student Elise Schultz smiled as she stood outside in the cold brisk wind.

She said she’s looking forward to the new school opening in September 2014. “I think it will be better,” said Schultz.

“It will be bigger.”

Samara Rheaume, a Grade 4 student, was also excited.

“It will be awesome,” she said. “It’s going to be so cool.

We’re going to have bigger classrooms. Other people will come to our school.”

The new school will have 13 classrooms, two portables and two future portables.

After the new school opens to about 140 students, the existing school will be demolished to make room for a soccer pitch.

The initial capacity will reach 250 and once the portables come on stream, then 300 in about a decade.

School principal Jean Doyon said the school will mainly be larger on the secondary side with a bigger gym, changerooms, labs and Career and Technology Services (CTS) space.

Karen Doucet, board chair, said the students aren’t just from Red Deer, but from Innisfail, Blackfalds, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake.

“Since the school opened in 1996, the board has been seeking an equivalent facility for this large and growing student body,” said Doucet.

“We also want to thank the city for finding a site — and changes of the bylaws that allowed this site to accommodate the beautiful new school coming here.”

The school division had looked at other sites, including one on Addington Drive that received a lot of neighbourhood opposition.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling said all the controversy is forgotten now.

He added this is the school district’s first choice, but it was too tight originally until the city could rejig the bylaws.

It also required co-operation from the Kinsmen Club which has a shelter there, Flewwelling said.

“This is where the school should be — it’s a historic site and it has a beautiful setting within the centre of town,” said Flewwelling.

Darren Zubot, project manager for Clark Builders, said the digging will get underway immediately.

The school is one of four schools being built in the Red Deer area and which will open for fall 2014.

This $288-million private-public partnership projects also include a kindergarten to Grade 5 Red Deer Public School in Timberlands, a middle school in Penhold for Chinook’s Edge School Division, and kindergarten to Grade 5 Father Henri Voisin School for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools in Red Deer’s Clearview Ridge.