Excitement builds as construction continues at West Niagara Secondary School

Riley Zulauf is ready to move on to university but a part of him wishes construction of the new campus for West Niagara Secondary School hadn’t been delayed.

The Grade 12 student said many of his classmates feel the same way.

“But what can you do about it?” he said.

The new WNSS campus, currently under construction at 5699 King St. in Beamsville between Grimsby and Beamsville, was due to finish in time for the start of the current school year, last September.

The project started with site remediation in 2019, but construction and supply chain delays have pushed the opening date to this fall.

Instead, students who previously attended Beamsville District Secondary School and Grimsby Secondary School have joined together to form the current student body of West Niagara Secondary School, which has been operating out of the former BDSS and GSS campuses amid the delay.

Mat Miller, principal at West Niagara Secondary School said that while the school waits for the new facilities to be ready, they have been working hard to make sure students have the best access to classes and extracurricular activities. With a larger student body — 1,500 now at WNSS compared to the 2021 enrolment of 900 at GSS and 400 at BDSS — the school can offer more than 30 courses including Italian, yoga, Pilates, environmental science, earth and space science, world culture.

“There's a huge list of things that we wouldn't have been running if the schools hadn’t come together like this,” Miller said.

Denise Haight said her daughter, Emily, who is in Grade 12 at WNSS has been able to see the benefit of the two schools amalgamating.

“She was able to take an architectural tech design course that wouldn’t have been offered in a small school,” she said.

Emily admitted she didn’t mind the delay “that much,” adding that her younger brother, Nathan, who is currently in Grade 9 will get to attend the new campus.

“We have all of the tracks and everything now, but the proper turf on the running track and football field for sports and everything will be a huge improvement,” she said. “That’ll be awesome.”

The new campus will feature a turf football field and running track. There will also be a large cafeteria, bigger classrooms than the current schools have, a state-of-the-art auditorium and more.

Riley’s mother, Laura Zulauf is a teacher at Jacob Beam Public School, an elementary school that is a feeder school for WNSS. She said she often talks to her students about the new facilities, programs and courses the new school will offer.

She said none of them are thinking about the delay, instead they’re excited about new opportunities for team sports and the social aspect of high school.

“They're looking forward to having all kids from all of the different schools to be in one place,” Laura said.

Alicia VanDyk’s daughter Tristan is currently in Grade 8 at Jacob Beam. When she heads off to WNSS this fall, she’ll be the first of VanDyk’s children to go to high school.

“Hopefully, it’ll be open like they say it should be,” said VanDyk.

VanDyk said Tristan is excited but “a little nervous” about high school. The 13-year-old wants to be a midwife and VanDyk said she’s happy the larger school will be able to offer her daughter the courses needed to pursue her dreams.

“I only have one kid who knows what they want to do. But down the road, this new school will be able to offer that much more,” she said.

According to Carolyn Laconte, communications officer with the District School Board of Niagara, the building is on track to open for September and the current Wolfpack students will move over to the new building this September.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY - With the ongoing construction of a new high school to serve the students of West Niagara, reporter Beatriz Baleeiro wanted to check in with current students and parents to see how they were feeling about the delayed opening and this year’s amalgamated student body.

Beatriz Baleeiro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News