Elementary and junior high students at Manitoba’s only Sikh independent school graduate to a real school building when they start classes next week.
Dasmesh School Winnipeg moved to the former Chapman School in Charleswood for the 2019-20 year, the first time in its seven-year history the independent religious school has operated from a purpose-built campus, founding principal Amandeep Kaur Sran said.
"This is a full-fledged school," she said, referring to the gymnasium, computer and science labs. "In our old building, we were running out of room."
After its inaugural year at the Sikh temple on Sturgeon Road, the school operated out of the Punjab Cultural Centre (1770 King Edward St.), a facility with a soccer field but no gym, board chairman Manjinderpal Singh Chahal said.
"We (now) have one room for a dance studio, we have a music room, a science lab and a big library," Chahal said of the new campus.
He said the biggest change for the school’s 250 students will be using the gymnasium without stepping outside. Previously, students were bused to Red River College for gym class.
Opening ceremonies are Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at 3707 Roblin Blvd.
Dasmesh School is the second independent religious school to lease Chapman School since Pembina Trails School Division closed it in June 2016.
Westgate Mennonite Collegiate occupied the school in 2016-17, when its Armstrong Point campus underwent renovation. Chapman has been vacant for the past two years, but remains in good condition, Chahal said.
Pembina Trails sold the property in June 2019 to Tuxedo Lands Inc. for $2.41 million, and Dasmesh School has leased the building from the new owners. Chahal said the long-term goal is to construct its own campus.
In addition to the mandated provincial curriculum, Dasmesh School offers classes in Sikh religion and culture.
"We want our kids to be academically strong," Sran said. "We want our kids to connect with our culture, so we have Punjabi language classes, Sikh values and history classes, and dance and music."
This year, the school also extends its offerings to include Grade 9, and plans are to add a grade every year so current students can attend right until Grade 12, Sran said.
About 70 new students have registered this year, bumping up total enrolment to 250.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.
Updated on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at 10:20 AM CDT: Fixes typo