When Sexsmith and area Kindergarten-Grade 6 students returned from an extended Spring Break this morning, they went down in Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD) history as the first occupants of the replacement Robert W. Zahara (R.W.Z.) Public School.
To facilitate the move, PWSD's Board approved an extended school day for R.W.Z. students for the current year, equating to a three-day extension to the regular Spring Break which began on March 25.
When the school's 415 students flooded the hallways this morning, they were greeted by a bright foyer and spacious new classrooms decorated in warm colours, with ample storage and enhanced instructional features. The learning commons, the school's jewel in the crown, features a curved wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, creating an attractive, naturally-lit space for reading and learning activities. Other special features include an oversize gymnasium, dedicated speech therapy and occupational therapy rooms, a servery, and a large music room. The new school is designed to accommodate 550 students from Sexsmith and the surrounding rural area. Demolition of the original R.W.Z. Public School, erected in 1978-1979, will occur after the county fire department has conducted training exercises, making way for a dedicated 11-stall bus parking lot and a separate guest and staff parking area.
While the old and new schools are located just steps apart, the task of moving to a new facility is daunting. Principal Lawrie McKeith offered insights into the administrative side of managing the move to the new school.
"Staff and family volunteers have done a fabulous job setting up our new classrooms and learning spaces," says Ms. McKeith. "The administrative team worked hard to ensure continuity of services for all of our students, up until the last day in the old school to the first day in the new school."
"For me, taking a seat at the planning table while maintaining the leadership of our school was a learning experience," adds Ms. McKeith. "Managing the logistics of furniture orders and storage needs while simultaneously learning to read blueprints and make meaningful contributions at site meetings meant learning the language of architects, which I found exciting. Also, much consideration had to be given to ensuring the new school is fully accessible for all students. Kudos to Jen-Col's team and the sub-trades for going above and beyond, sometimes working late into the night to get all classrooms ready for opening day."
The construction project was managed by Alberta Education, in conjunction with Dave Michalko, PWSD's Director of Facilities.
"Construction of the $18 million school began in September, 2014 and was completed by Jen-Col Construction," says Mr. Michalko. "The architects at Workun Garrick brought the building to 30 per cent completion, with the remaining 70 per cent handled by ACI Architects. The total size of the structure, which includes ten modular classrooms, is approximately 4,532 square metres."
An official grand opening is expected to take place early in the new school year. To view photos of the construction process from start to finish, visit PWSD's Facebook page at http://bit.ly/RWZ-construction.
Photo Caption: The replacement Robert W. Zahara Public School opened to students on April 6, 2016. A grand opening event is expected in the fall.