Four Winds breaks ground in Morinville

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A parent, a science teacher, and Canada’s first female Métis senator will inspire future students at Morinville’s newest public school, say Sturgeon educators.

Teachers, parents, and students celebrated Tuesday as they officially broke ground on the new Four Winds Public School in Morinville. Due to wet weather, the ceremonial sod-turning happened at the Fable Garden Hall next to Morinville Public School instead of at the school’s construction site at 545 Grandin Drive southeast of Notre Dame Elementary.

Four Winds will be the Sturgeon Public School board’s first elementary/junior high in Morinville when it opens, and could eventually become its first high school as well.

Sturgeon Public board chair Terry Jewell said he was totally excited to see this school open, as Morinville Public was “jammed to the rafters” with some 900 preschool to Grade 9 students.

“It’s going to be fabulous to actually have enough room for the kids.”

Four Winds will host the Grades 5-9 students currently at Morinville Public, said district superintendent Michèle Dick. While it will initially have 600 students, Four Winds will eventually expand to 1,000 with the addition of Grades 10-12.

The $19 million two-storey school will have many innovative features such as the agora/dance studio for the dance academy in the front lobby, Dick said. There will be plenty of light and glass, and few if any hallways, with most classrooms instead connected via large common areas.

“The classrooms have been built in clusters,” Dick said, and will have garage-door style walls. Open those walls to the common areas, and you create giant rooms where different classes can work together.

The school’s second floor will have a patio for outdoor experiments and many solar panels on the roof, Dick said. Outside will be an amphitheatre for community activities as well as two outdoor classrooms stocked with native plants.

Women leaders

Celebrating the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday were friends and relatives of three Morinville-area women whose names will be immortalized at Four Winds.

The school’s learning commons will be named after Donna Hunter, the former Morinville resident whose actions caused the province to transfer what is now Morinville Public to Sturgeon Schools from Greater St. Albert Catholic, bringing secular public education to town for the first time in history.

Hunter faced a never-ending array of “no’s” in her quest, but persisted in her efforts, Dick said.

“She to some extent exemplifies (the idea) that one person working with others can make a difference.”

Hunter said she was thrilled by this recognition and delighted that the new school was opening.

“I’m so excited for the town. It’s a beautiful building and it’s going to do nothing but good things.”

Hunter said she hoped the learning commons would show students the importance of asking questions, critical thought, and collaboration.

The late Thelma Chalifoux will lend her name to the school’s outdoor classrooms.

Chalifoux was Canada’s first female Métis senator and a proud advocate for women and the Métis, Dick said – someone who embraced cultural diversity and fought for her beliefs.

“She was in every way that nurturing educator, a force to be reckoned with.”

Chalifoux’s daughter, Sharon Morin, said she was excited that part of Four Winds would be named after her mother, who was always out picking berries or fishing with her children.

“Thelma was always about many different kinds of education,” she said, and you can learn so much from being out on the land.

Morin said she hoped the classroom would inspire students to be good stewards of nature.

The school’s science lab will be named after Audri Kowalyk, a popular science teacher at Morinville Public who helped design Four Winds but died suddenly last December, Dick said.

Expect to see earth and foundation work happening at the Four Winds site this summer with the outer framework going up by this winter, Jewell said. The school is set to open in December 2019.

Questions on the school should go to Sturgeon Public at 780-939-4341.

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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.