Seven Oaks School Division opened the school year with more than 40 portable classrooms — nine of them new — and the construction of a new adult learning centre to help the fastest growing school division in the province from bursting at the seams, officials say.
The division will welcome about 400 new students this year, although enrolment numbers are still being tallied, superintendent Brian O’Leary said in an interview last week.
The division has received more than 1,300 new students over the last three years.
"We’re well-staffed and organized, and are prepared for it," O’Leary said, noting 20 new teaching positions were added this year.
On top of that, nine portable classrooms have been added across the division — three at James Nisbet, three at O.V. Jewitt, two at Arthur Wright and one at Belmont schools.
Meanwhile, construction chugs along on a new adult learning centre on Jefferson Avenue near McPhillips Street. It is slated to open early next year.
Once complete, the centre, a partnership with Canad Inns, will free up five classrooms at Maples Collegiate, O’Leary said.
Enrolment is spiking at all grade levels, although the division is paying particular attention to its kindergarten numbers.
Plans for a new kindergarten to Grade 8 school in Amber Trails have cleared zoning hurdles at city hall, O’Leary said. The division anticipates putting out construction tenders in the new year, with construction to begin next spring.
The school, now targeted for a fall 2014 opening, would have a core capacity of 600 students, but eight additional classrooms are being factored into the design to accommodate up to 800, he said.
"It’s prudent to have those in the initial construction rather than have to put in an addition a year or two down the road," O’Leary said.
Provincial officials have told the division a new elementary school for Riverbend remains "very high" on the priority list, although the division has yet to receive funding approval, O’Leary said. The earliest Riverbend could see a new school is by 2015, he said.
"The division has done a really good job of managing growth," he said.
"But with the capital approval process — they don’t give you a new school until the students are actually here."
Board chair Evelyn Myskiw said the division is focusing on improving its literacy and math programs. As the division rapidly approaches 12,000 students, an increasing number of them are Canadian newcomers.
"That’s a dilemma right now," she said. "We don’t want to leave anybody behind."
The new adult education centre will help immigrants bring their English skills up to par to help them find jobs, and be more accessible to Red River College for job training, Myskiw added.
The division is also making a push towards sustainable development education, she said.
The board will hold its next meeting Mon., Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.7oaks.org.