Starting with O Canada and winding up with an extra long recess, North Saanich middle school officially opened Thursday amid a flurry of official speeches and performances by the award-winning Grade 8 stage band.
“Obviously this wasn’t just another construction project for the team that put this together, obviously this was an inspiration, this was a commitment on the part of the builders. This is absolutely beautiful,” said Education Minister George Abbott during the official launch on Thursday afternoon.
“Bricks and mortar are important and what we see here are not really bricks and mortar. We see a very beautiful structure including those incredibly beautiful wood beams,” he added gesturing toward the ceiling. “The building’s important and I know that everyone’s very much enjoying this new school building, but it’s the team that works inside the building that ensures that you as students at North Saanich middle school have exceptional education.”
The new school can hold up to 400 students from grades 6 to 8, meets B.C.’s Wood First Initiative by incorporating wood as much as possible and follows LEED Gold or equivalent environmental standards.
Heat is generated by a ground source heat pump and solar hot water panels. Solar panels and a wind turbine generate some of the school’s electricity. The school has an automatic light adjustment system to conserve energy and a greenhouse to teach children about growing food.
“This was a $23 million investment in your future. It was $23 million very well spent,” Abbott said. “You have not only a beautiful structure but from a seismic perspective a safe structure … it is a great investment in 21st century education.”
The 5,000 square metre school includes 14 classrooms, art, music, home economics, woodwork and drama rooms, a library, computer lab, multipurpose space and double gym.
Students moved into the school after spring break.
“When you were across the street you were in a great school,” Keven Elder, superintendent for the Saanich school district, said of the former school. “You’re still in a great school as you’ve come across to this new facility, it just happens to be one that is built for the 21st century, that is organized around learning as we understand it in the 21st century, and that you will be in as you go forward to Parkland and other places, helping us understand the best ways to educate young people in this day and age.”
North Saanich school will also be home to a Neighbourhood Learning Centre with the enlarged gym and a purpose room that can be used for meetings or changed into a full theatre with sound system for performances. The school district has partnered with the Peninsula Recreation Commission to offer fitness, fine arts and recreational programs through the learning centre after school hours.
After the ceremonies, some students escorted groups on tours of the building, while the rest of the kids got an extra lengthy afternoon recess.
New name for North Saanich athletics
Thursday afternoon marked the official name change for the school sports teams from Vikings to Hawks.