Education Minister David Eggen was on hand Thursday for the official grand opening of Roy Bickell Public School. The K to 8 welcomed roughly 200 students at the beginning of the school year, after being announced by the province in October 2014.
Eggen says the building should be a source of pride for the community.
“We see tremendous growth here in north Grande Prairie and this school has been deserved and a long time coming.”
On his visit to Grande Prairie, Eggen says he expected to hear requests for more new schools in the city. While revenue is still tight for the government, he says they’re watching population trends.
“Grande Prairie is really starting to pick up; I think both economically and the sense of optimism of young families choosing to have kids and put down roots here in the Peace Country and Grande Prairie.
Eggen explains he takes direction from local school boards when it comes to adding new schools, so they need to have them at the top of their capital lists. Enrolment in the Grande Prairie Public School District is up three per cent this year, with ECS to grade 3 up around seven per cent.
Roy Bickell’s grand opening was a celebration of its namesake, a local businessman and philanthropist. City and school board officials alike spoke of Bickell’s passion for education, history, and community, and how he was a true leader until his passing in 2015.
Members of Bickell’s family were on hand for the event. His daughter Judy Brewster says both of her parents would have been honoured by the school’s naming.
“It was humbling to be here today and hear people talk about my dad, who knew my dad and really understood what his character was like and how important people were and learning was and the community is. It was great to see so many other people that knew that about him.”
Brewster says the school’s three core values – explore, create, give – are virtues of her father she hopes are instilled in its staff and students.
“Be the kind of neighbour we’ve heard Roy was,” Superintendent Sandy McDonald encouraged the crowd.