REGINA — Six gold-painted shovels dug in, officials made speeches, children watched and the three new joint-use schools project officially got underway Sept. 10. The Catholic school to be built on the sod turning site in the newly developing southeast area known as The Greens On Gardiner will be named St. Elizabeth. The public school is yet to be named.
It was a bright, sunny and warm day as the Minister of Education Don Morgan, Catholic school board chair Rob Bresciani, Public school board chair Katherine Gagne, J.U.M.P. director Sheldon Ramstead and Grade 5 students McKinley Szautner from St. Gabriel School and Jasmine Flaman from W.F. Ready School wielded the shovels. J.U.M.P is the acronym for the consortium that won the bid for construction of the Regina schools.
The actual site of the schools is about a city block north of the sod-turning site. Heavy rain on the weekend previous left the actual site a muddy mess. It could be seen in the background while Elder Noel Starblanket prayed in Cree over the site and Deacon Joe Lang recited a blessing and sprayed the area with holy water.
Speakers described the occasion as historic: the beginning of actual construction of Regina schools under the controversial P3 process. All speakers thanked the two boards of education, the ministry and everyone involved in the planning that has advanced the project on time that brought it to this stage.
“Some among you will be the first students in these schools,” said Morgan addressing his initial remarks to the Grade 5 students who should be entering Grade 7 in September 2017 when the schools are due to open. “You are the reason we are here.”
The three joint-use elementary schools will house about 3,000 students when completed. They are part of the massive school building project that will see 18 new schools built in Regina, Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville. “This is building a bright new future,” said Morgan.
Bresciani said the process has been “a rewarding collaboration with all partners and our colleagues at the Regina Public School Board.” He noted St. Elizabeth School is named after the mother of John the Baptist. Gagne thanked Starblanket for reminding everyone that we are all Treaty 4 people. The new schools, she said, “will change the way we look at the education of our children.” The naming process for the public schools will begin this fall and she issued an invitation to all citizens to take part in the consultations.
The joint-use schools will also contain 90 daycare spaces as well rooms that can be used for community meetings/events.