New Penhold school a long time coming

Is principal Mark Crawford happy with the brand-new Penhold Crossing Secondary School? No, not exactly. “Ecstatic is probably closer to it,” Crawford said with a smile.

Is principal Mark Crawford happy with the brand-new Penhold Crossing Secondary School?

No, not exactly.

“Ecstatic is probably closer to it,” Crawford said with a smile.

“It’s been a long time coming and of course a lot of anticipation on behalf of the school division, the kids — everybody’s excited.”

That “everyone” evidently includes a good number of Penhold denizens as well.

Dozens of municipal workers and interested parties joined in on a simple media tour of the freshly-completed facility opening in September on Friday afternoon, and with every new feature shown off there was an adult joking about wanting to head back to high school just to enjoy the amenities.

The Grade 7-12 facility was built on to the existing Penhold Regional Multiplex that went up in 2010 in the town’s northeast.

That connection means the school’s library is conjoined with the town’s public library, and the school’s gymnasium and that of the multiplex are separated only by a folding wall that will allow an even bigger space for both big school and big community events.

The school boasts plenty of space for trades and specialty training with cosmetology and foods classrooms, plus space for wood and metalworking. Its science classrooms are decked out with emergency shower stations and chemical fume hoods.

Right now the building is empty, but $200,000 worth of furniture will arrive in the coming months to prepare for the impending student arrival. Some of the future students have already had some say in what their classrooms will look like, choosing stools with seats that resemble teacups.

Earlier Friday, 120 of the students who will move from Penhold’s Grade 3-9 school toured the new facility. Most of the rest of the student population will come from River Glen School in Red Deer, which closes next week.

“Initially we’re going to be about 200, but that’ll grow every single year,” said Crawford, “We’re confident that it’ll be 250 in our second year.”

At those numbers the school could feel very spacious at first. Six modular classrooms have already been added onto the permanent structure, giving the school a student capacity of 500.

That glut will allow Chinook’s Edge School Division’s career high school to operate within the facility for the near future. Moving the campus from Red Deer could cause student numbers to decline, but it will give Penhold students greater access to courses not offered at the new school.

When it opens, Penhold Crossing will serve as the first high school in the town in 62 years, according to local oldtimer Stewart Ford. An old two-storey facility used to serve local pupils up until 1952, he said, before River Glen opened to rural youth.

And when Penhold Crossing does open, Ford’s generosity will immediately benefit the kids who pass through the doors. Stewart and wife Eileen donated $500,000 to the school in April, funds that will cover three annual awards to be handed out to grads.

The school was part of a $288 million batch of 12 schools built across the province through the public-private partnership model. Under the P3 method, industry is to design and build new schools, financing at least half the cost of construction before being paid out over 30 years. Maintenance of the schools over that period is handled by an outside contractor, not the school division.

An open house is being held at the school on July 1 in conjunction with the town’s Canada Day festivities.

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