Students head back to class and new classrooms

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St. Albert students head back to class next week and in many cases they will be walking into newly built classrooms.

St. Albert Public School students hold their first day of classes this Aug. 30, with Greater St. Albert Catholic, Sturgeon Public and francophone students holding theirs Sept. 5.

Some 600 students will step into St. Albert’s newest school Wednesday at École Lois E. Hole Elementary School. The Gazette will be there with full coverage of its inaugural assembly.

Underground servicing is now complete at Sister Alphonse Academy in Jensen Lakes – likely St. Albert’s next new school – and steel frames should go up later this month, said Catholic board superintendent David Keohane.

“We’re very optimistic that the September 2018 opening will be a reality.”

St. Albert Catholic High students are headed into the tail-end of a two-year $10 million renovation, said principal Danielle Karaki.

“It’s been a complete modernization,” she said, with all new mechanical and electrical systems and a makeover for almost every room.

Crews were still climbing ladders and drilling holes Thursday as parents checked in at the school’s front office, the floor of which had just been finished the previous day. Many of the ceilings were exposed, but they would be closed up by the time school starts, Karaki said.

The biggest changes that happened at the school over the summer were in the CTS lab, library and fitness centre, Karaki said.

The CTS lab has been completely rearranged, with the welding bays on one side and design stations on the other, separated by a glass wall. It also has brand new equipment, including a plasma cutter and a computer-guided milling machine, so that students can practice the latest industry skills.

“Students don’t really use old reference materials as they did before,” Karaki said, so the library has been converted into a learning commons.

While it will still have books, the library will now have fewer encyclopedia sets, more computers, and an open design for group-work.

The fitness centre is now in a new location with more free weights and exercise equipment, Karaki said. The old centre in the gym will now serve as the phys-ed office. The gym is also getting a new LED scoreboard later this year.

The school’s renovation should be complete by the end of September, Karaki said.

VJM overhaul

Next door at Vincent J. Maloney, students will walk into a construction zone as that school’s $9 million renovation rolls on.

Three classrooms, one hall, the cafeteria and the gym are all closed for renovation, and there are a lot of construction fences and workers on site, said principal Greg Lamer.

“The kids are very resilient,” he said, and the construction work shouldn’t affect their education.

Still, it will mean holding phys-ed classes outdoors for now and borrowing St. Albert Catholic’s gym when possible.

“We’re hopeful we can get our gym completed before the snow flies,” Lamer said.

Lamer said he would also go over safety rules for the renovation with students on the first day of school.

“The big thing is to obey all the signage.”

Kids will have to bring their own lunches while the cafeteria is redone, and will see much of its eating area replaced by a new fitness centre when it reopens, Lamer said. By the end of the reno, the school will also have a new library, front office, CTS lab, washrooms and change-room.

“I know our kids will be curious and excited,” he said, and he hoped to have tradespersons give talks to students.

“It’s going to be an adventure!”

The renovation is set to wrap up by September 2018, Lamer said.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.