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SJPII school opens doors to students

More than 200 students have moved in to the Grande Prairie Catholic School’s newest facility. St. John Paul II in Arbour Hills is mostly finished and ready for students to finish up the school year in their new classrooms.

The newly constructed building offers unique spaces that can be separated into individual classrooms or movable walls can be opened up to allow for larger, communal learning spaces. There are also nooks and areas around the school for students to use as work spaces. The open flow concept is meant to help foster collaborative work by the students.

Principal Jennifer Thompson says they can’t wait to settle in to the new space.

“Beyond excited. Excited is not the word that covers it all. We’ve been waiting for this day for quite a while. But things went very smoothly and we’re incredibly excited to be in the building.”

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She says even the students shared the staff’s enthusiasm.

“Some kids were almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the school, the layout of the place and all the new spaces and opportunities that are open to them. Some students that were a little reluctant to change buildings in the middle of the year were so excited to get here.”

The school is located on the far north side of the city in one of the newest developments in the city. The isolated location has brought some questions and concerns but Thompson says while they just have junior high students that won’t be a problem but there will be high school students eventually.

“When we move up into high school we will have students who are driving and will be able to access other places in the community. Really it feels like we’re on the other end of the earth on this end of the city but we’re really not that far away.”

Thompson says she has fielded a number of emails from people in the community looking for ways they can engage with the school.

Some areas are still under construction. The classrooms for options like cooking and shop as well as the more than 300 seat theatre are still being worked on. They are on track for their fall 2018 completion date at this time.

Other concerns before opening included transit and access issues. The city and catholic board have entered into a pilot project that is busing some of the students from the Royal Oaks area and the city has agreed to flashing lights at a crosswalk that is expected to be used by students to cross 132 Avenue.

Once complete there will be room for 700 to 900 students depending on future potential portable additions.

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