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Peace Wapiti Public School Division
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Peace Wapiti Public School Division No. 76
News Item

Whispering Ridge Community School construction set to begin – Attendance boundary adjustments completed following community consultations

April 28, 2016

Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD) is pleased to announce that Graham Construction is the successful bidder for the construction of Whispering Ridge Community School (WRCS). The tendering process closed on April 12. In their bid, the company set estimated construction costs at $15,792,000. The school was initially included in a larger announcement by the former government in October, 2014.

With a head office located in Calgary, Graham Construction is noted for many large scale projects throughout North America. Locally, the company is currently constructing the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital. The company has collaborated with the Alberta Education and Infrastructure ministries on a number of school builds throughout the Edmonton and Calgary areas. Graham's impressive project roster also includes the Canadian Forces Military Police Academy in Ontario, the Canmore Multiplex, the CN Tower Plaza and Front Street redevelopment in Toronto, and the Peace Bridge in Calgary.

With a contractor in place, construction is expected to begin late spring. A mid-year opening is planned for the 2017-2018 school year.

The main floor of the school will house a large, centrally-located gymnasium with a nearby servery to accommodate food service during school and community events; adjoining Kindergarten classrooms, separated by a Kinder-kitchen; a naturally-lit learning commons boasting three two-story walls of glass; break-out classrooms; foods and CTS classrooms; eight modular classrooms; and a playschool facility which will be operated in partnership with the County of Grande Prairie. The second floor will include an expandable music room which opens to a large flex space, several classrooms, break-out areas, and dedicated science classrooms.

To view finalized floor plans and an architectural rendering of the new school, supplied by Architects Tkalcic Bengert, click the New School button on PWSD's website at www.pwsd76.ab.ca.

New school will bring changes to Harry Balfour School attendance boundary

When WRCS opens, it will alleviate pressure created by growing enrolment at Harry Balfour School (HBS) in Grande Prairie. On March 22, PWSD hosted an information session for current HBS families to discuss upcoming changes to school attendance boundaries. Those who were unable to attend were invited to a second session on April 21. The discussion was led by Rodney Lee, former Deputy Superintendent at PWSD and Principal at HBS. Trustees who make up PWSD's Transportation Appeal Committee were also on hand to provide answers to questions. 

Based on recommendations from the information sessions, the Board announced plans for the HBS and WRCS attendance boundaries during their regular meeting on April 28.

The current HBS attendance area will be divided in the south along Highway 40, from the Wapiti River to the Grande Prairie city limits. In the north, the boundary will run along Highway 2 from the Grande Prairie city limits, ending at the interchange with Highway 43 which marks the start of Clairmont Community School's boundary line. The western portion of the current HBS attendance area will be assigned to WRCS, effective the 2017-18 school year. Families in the new WRCS attendance area who wish to remain at HBS will be required to provide transportation.

For the 2017-2018 school year, K-6 classes and teaching staff at HBS will be structured based on the school they will be attending when WRCS opens mid-year with a K-6 configuration. Grade 7 will be added to WRCS during the 2018-2019 school year, followed by Grade 8 in 2019-2020.

With the province's recent release of Budget 2016, families living in the eastern portion of the current HBS attendance area can expect changes sometime in the future. Listed among the government's approved but currently unfunded projects is a new Kindergarten-Grade 8 school, located southeast of Grande Prairie – one of PWSD's identified top three capital projects. When it opens, this new school will see the closure of the current Harry Balfour School. In preparation for this project, the Board will make a request to the County of Grande Prairie to designate an appropriate K-8 school site in proposed developments located southeast of Grande Prairie, preferably along Township Road 712.

Annexation-area students welcome to remain at HBS and PWA

To date, the Board has not received a decision from the Minister of Education as to whether he will change or retain existing school boundaries as a result of the annexation of County lands by the City of Grande Prairie on January 1, 2016. Earlier this month, the Minister sent a letter to the PWSD Board, stating his intent to make a decision promptly. At the Board meeting held on April 28, the Board voted to immediately communicate to families who reside in the recently-annexed area of Grande Prairie that students currently enroled at Peace Wapiti Academy and HBS, and their younger siblings, are welcome to continue attending those schools. The Board will continue to request that the Minister make a decision regarding transportation funding.

Photos: Floor plans and an architectural rendering of the new Whispering Ridge Community School.

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