Monday, September 10, 2012

St. Mary's Academy Expansion

It has been six years in the making but St. Mary's Academy off of Academy Road has been undertaking a multi-million dollar expansion of its campus. The present construction is in phase 3 of and the most ambitious of the overall project. The previous two phases starting in 2000 brought classrooms up to present electrical standards and installed air conditioning, created a new entrance to the Sister Rita Maureen Gym, added human ecology classrooms and lastly created the Richardson Science Wing.

It was the third phase that really busted out beyond the present walls of the school. In 2010, the construction alongside Academy Road began and a two story addition emerged of. Inside was to be the Durocher Library, a visual arts studio and a fitness room.

The latest work on Phase 3B is being done. It is the heart of the school. Alumnae Hall, a theatre, will receive a massive upgrade, additional classroom and rehearsal spaces, make-up and costume labs and a foyer extension.

Over the last numbers of years we have seen several schools go through infrastructure improvements. I just detailed how St. Paul's High School has begun a building program in support of its renowned sports program. Nearby, Shaftesbury built a two story addition to rid itself of dreaded "temporary" portable classrooms.

We have seen many schools close or merge in recent years. The trend is for schools to be larger and offer more amenities for students. Still, we are marked with very small schools for many elementary students as witnessed by Chapman School in Charleswood and Queenston in River Heights. The province and school divisions seem terrified of of closing these schools so they limp along with crumbling infrastructure or lack of gym, classrooms or other space.

Sprawl and changing demographics also means some schools will continue to shrink. And demand to build schools such as in Whyte Ridge will reach a siren call.

The high schools that expand and meet future needs of students will be destination schools. And it won't all be infrastructure. The schools that offer services, scholarships and support for students will also make them destination schools.

The last major expansion of St. Mary's Academy took place in 1964. It is unlikely in this changing world that they can afford to wait that long again to meet the needs of students.

And for other schools, especially high schools, trustees, principals, parents and students ought to be thinking of what they can do to make this schools better so that they are there for the generations to come.

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