A groundbreaking event for two new schools slated to open in southwest Winnipeg in 2023 could not come soon enough for families in Waverley West — the fastest growing ward in all of Winnipeg.
Elected officials, including Education Minister Cliff Cullen, Waverley MLA Jon Reyes, Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West), and school trustee Kathleen McMillan, gathered Tuesday morning to turn sod at a construction site east of the intersection of Kenaston Boulevard and Bison Drive.
The site will soon be home to the Bison Run development, a new education and recreation campus that will house a kindergarten-to-Grade 8 building with an 800-student capacity, a high school that will accommodate enrolment of 1,200 learners, and child-care facilities.
“As the development and the homes and the number of family units come into this area, this is a tipping point for us. We do need to have these schools built,” said McMillan, chairwoman of the board of trustees in the Pembina Trails School Division.
McMillan said the opening of both schools in the community will alleviate pressure in existing facilities in the division.
Capacity challenges at nearby École South Pointe School, which opened in early 2017, have been the subject of much debate in recent school years. Last fall, Pembina Trails secured portables from the province to address high demand for desks in southwest Winnipeg.
The dual-track elementary school was designed for 875 pupils. According to the school website, there are currently 1,039 pupils.
Catchment areas for the new schools have not yet been determined, as the division is awaiting population estimates and must assess capacities of nearby K-12 buildings, McMillan said, adding she did not want to make a guess Tuesday about where future students will reside.
Construction of the two-storey, 81,400-square-foot elementary building got underway in August; it is expected to finish in late 2022 so pupils can start studying at the facility in early 2023.
The official groundbreaking for the high school, a three-storey, 116,950-square-foot building, is anticipated in the coming weeks. The senior years site is to be completed in June 2023.
The province has earmarked $67.8 million for the projects.
Cullen touted the event as one that shows the Progressive Conservatives are taking seriously their promise to open 20 new schools in Manitoba.
“It’s a big moment for this community, as these two schools will be under construction over the coming years and this will allow this growing neighbourhood to have safe spaces to learn,” said the education minister, during a news conference on the site Tuesday.
Cullen indicated both schools are expected to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver certification and will have “state-of-the-art ventilation.”
When pressed about air quality in current schools and why the province has not recommended the widespread use of portable air filters, he said Manitoba spends millions on division HVAC maintenance and upgrades annually.
Ventilation is only one component of dealing with COVID-19, added Cullen, noting vaccination, proper hygiene, mask-wearing and physical distancing are all fundamental measures to protect staff and students.
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press