‘There are positives’: Delays to new West Niagara school opening won’t affect student experience, says principal

·3 min read

The school year for students at the new West Niagara Secondary School (WNSS) may look a little different than expected this year, since the new campus has not yet been completed.

And although students in Grimsby and Lincoln may be starting the school year in slightly strange circumstances, the school's principal is confident that delays to the opening of the new school building will not affect student opportunities.

The new WNSS building, on King Street between Grimsby and Beamsville, was due to be completed in time for this school year, but delays have postponed the opening and the building is still only partially built.

This means that those students from Grimsby Secondary School (GSS) and Beamsville District Secondary School (BDSS), who were due to start at the new building, will now potentially split their time between the two existing campuses.

Although the school body is now WNSS and students are enrolled in that school, classes are split between the GSS and BDSS campuses.

Under the temporary arrangements, the GSS campus is the main hub for learning, and BDSS is used for specialized courses, such as welding, horticulture, hospitality, cosmetology, and construction.

A shuttle bus will run between the two campuses at lunchtime, ferrying students between the two sites as required.

Mat Miller, principal of WNSS, said that although there will be some inconveniences with the temporary arrangement, he’s confident that the school will turn it into a positive for the students.

“It’s an inconvenience … but we’ll make it work for each student,” he said. “It’s a temporary situation, but even with a temporary situation, there are positives.”

For Miller, one of the main positives is the increased opportunities for more classes that a larger student body provides.

Because the two student bodies have been amalgamated, there are now around 1,500 students at WNSS, compared to 900 at GSS and 400 at BDSS at the end of the last school year.

That increase allowed the school to introduce around 30 new classes, including Italian, custom woodwork and phys-ed focusing on court sports and football.

Miller said it also means that existing classes are offered in greater numbers, which increases a student’s chances of getting enrolled in the courses they want.

He said that 97 per cent of student choices were fulfilled this year, compared to an average of 80 per cent over previous years.

“I want all students to have access to a wide range of programs, in and out of the classroom,” he said. “(There’s) something for every student.”

As for the move to the new campus, that’s still up in the air, but the new facility will have a host of modern features.

When it is ready, the new facility will feature a greenhouse, a 750-seat community theatre and a range of industry-standard technology equipment for programs like construction, culinary, and cosmetology, according to Carolyn LoConte, spokesperson for District School Board of Niagara. It will also have modern classrooms and lots of natural light.

Currently, the synthetic turf field with an eight-lane running track is ready at the WNSS site, and students will be able to use it this fall.

Miller said that they were waiting for construction to be finished, and couldn’t provide a time frame, but promised that he and the rest of the school are ready to move in as soon as it’s complete.

“When it’s ready, it will be ready,” he said. “As soon as the building is there, we’ll be ready.”

Chris Pickles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News