Despite November's wet and unpredictable weather, construction is progressing on schedule on the new Whispering Ridge Community School (WRCS). Crews have been battling muddy conditions which are common for this time of year with Grande Prairie's clay-rich soil. Block layers arrived on site in November and considerable progress has been made since that time, with walls now easily visible upon approach to the construction site.
PWSD Facilities Director David Michalko is responsible for managing all aspects of the project on behalf of Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD).
"Since June when workers arrived on site, all underground infrastructure to support water, sewer, electrical and natural gas has been installed, including storm drains for the school's dedicated bus lanes," says Mr. Michalko. "Piles for the structural slab are complete, the structural grade beam has been poured, screw piles have been installed to accommodate the school's nine modular classrooms, and plumbing and electrical work are moving ahead. Although the mud created some scheduling issues, with recent freezing temperatures, crews are moving ahead at a steady pace and steel structural work is expected to begin before Christmas."
The new school will include an energy-efficient mechanical system and will be built to LEED SILVER certification standards – a rating system that provides independent, third-party verification that a building has been designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.
"Whenever a new school is announced, progress may feel slow in the months that immediately follow," says PWSD Board Chair Dana McIntosh. "Even though we're aware that important underground infrastructure work is proceeding, something special happens in a community when the new school structure begins to take shape. We are already seeing activity in the WRCS attendance area, with families coming together to fundraise for the new playground structure."
Check out the construction progress on the new Whispering Ridge Community School, in a video shot on Friday, December 2, 2016:
Playground fundraising first task for WRCS Participarent Society
Surprising to most is the fact that new school funding announcements do not include support for playground facilities. "That's where a community can take its first important steps in shaping school culture," says Principal Shawn O'Shea. "To date, families living within the WRCS attendance area have established a WRCS Playground Society Facebook page to keep followers up-to-date on fundraising activities, and to generate additional support. We invite future WRCS parents and guardians to not only follow this group on Facebook, but also consider joining the Participarent Society to become actively involved with the planning, development and building of our future playgrounds."
Community meeting, survey offer feedback on opening Grade structure options
When the new WRCS opens, it will help to ease enrolment pressure at Harry Balfour School (HBS). Information sessions were held in March and April to share recommendations regarding the new HBS/WRCS attendance boundaries. Last month, parents and guardians of current Grades 6 and 7 HBS students, who live within the new WRCS attendance area, were invited to an information meeting and completed an online survey to provide feedback on two opening Grade structure options. Approximately 65 per cent of survey respondents indicated preference for a K-8 opening format, over a K-6 opening with stepped integration of junior high students over a two-year period. In considering all factors, the PWSD Board supports a K-8 opening format for the school, but a final decision will be dependent on construction progress.
Intent letters and forms being mailed to families this week
This week, PWSD sent intent letters and forms to families who reside within the WRCS attendance area and currently have children enroled in Grades 6 and 7 at Harry Balfour School. Additional forms have been placed in the Clairmont Community School office, and an online version of the form is available at www.pwsd76.ab.ca under the 'New School' button. Feedback supplied in the forms will help staff estimate student enrolment numbers and assist with ordering new furniture and supplies for the school. Official registration will open in the spring and additional student information will be required at that time.
Funds set aside for new school opening
Based on data from the 2011 opening of Clairmont Community School, with seven per cent inflation factored in, the Board voted during its November 24th meeting to set aside $680,000 in capital reserves, equating to $1,696 per student, to provide the necessary resources for the opening of the new WRCS, which is expected sometime during the 2017-2018 school year.
WRCS Assistant Principal named
Jenny McAusland has been appointed Assistant Principal of WRCS, effective the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Ms. McAusland began her career in education at PWSD in 2003, as the junior high language arts teacher at Penson School in Grovedale. In 2010, she was appointed to the roles of Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) Coordinator and acting Literacy Coordinator at PWSD, followed by a return to Penson School as Principal in 2012. In 2005, she was awarded a Rotary Excellence in Education, Service Above Self Award. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree, graduating with distinction from the Teacher Education North (TEN) Collaborative Degree Program at the University of Alberta/Grande Prairie Regional College in 2003, and is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society. Ms. McAusland will join Principal Shawn O'Shea to form the school's leadership team.
The walls of Whispering Ridge Community School are now easily visible upon approach to the construction site in the Whispering Ridge subdivision.
Jenny McAusland has been appointed Assistant Principal of Whispering Ridge Community School, effective the start of the 2017-2018 school year.
Additional photos are available on PWSD's Facebook page.