The overcrowded Seven Oaks School Division will soon get a little breathing room.
The Manitoba government announced plans for a new kindergarten to Grade 5 French immersion school in the Riverbend area on Weds., Nov. 20 at Belmont School. It was welcome news to an absolutely packed gym of students and staff.
In addition to serving approximately 400 students in the Riverbend and West St. Paul areas, the new school will include a child care centre with space for 54 preschool children and 12 infants.
The Riverbend school is the second new school to be announced in the city’s north this year. In May, the province announced a K-8 school in Amber Trails, which is scheduled to open in 2015
"Between the one in Amber Trails and this one, it will give us space for a thousand students," said Brian O’Leary, division superintendent.
"We can eliminate a huge chunk of our portables. In the schools that are overcrowded now, it’s too many kids for the music room, too many kids for the gym, too many kids for the halls and washrooms. This really alleviates all of that. It also means more kids can walk to school, and we’re having to bus fewer kids out of their neighbourhood."
O’Leary said the Riverbend school will be located on a 10-acre site on Swinford Way, just north of Murray Avenue and west of Donan Street, and should be completed in 2016 or 2017. He said the two new schools will enable the division to meet the province’s mandate to cap K- 3 classes at 20 students by 2017.
"We’re a little better than halfway to meeting it now, but the real limitation on us making progress is space. This addresses that big time," O’Leary said.
While O’Leary said the new two schools should meet the division’s need for the next few years, he added that northwest Winnipeg is a growing area and that the division is keeping tabs on where the next need will be.
"I think the next need will be in West St. Paul or the Garden City area, between McPhillips and existing development north of where the Chief Peguis extension would go through," he said.
"Those are the areas we’re watching. We talk with developers all the time to see what their plans are, and we talk with city and municipal officials to have an idea of what’s coming."
"I think there are thousands of more homes coming and a need for new schools. In the next decade, I could see a need for two to four more early years schools and probably another high school."
Paulette Wiens, vice-president of the Belmont Parent Association, said the Riverbend school announcement is welcome news, even it if won’t benefit her daughter, who is currently in Grade 4 at Belmont.
"It’ll downsize some of the classroom space, so that will make it better for kids to have some more one-on-one time with their teachers," she said.