Students and staff filled the halls of Valleyview secondary’s new east wing for the first time on Monday, leaving behind portables for indoor classrooms and bright, open hallways.
Construction on the new addition started in 2020. The project will add 525 seats to the Valleyview school, bringing its capacity up to 1,200 students and taking away the need for 12 portables.
Roger Turner, who has been a physics and math teacher at Valleyview for 16 years, said the new wing is making a noticeable difference for teachers and students alike.
“In the first block today, I had five or six staff members just come in and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ Which never happens when you're in a portable,” Turner said.
“The same with students, they felt so much more connected with their school. I don't think you can underestimate just how isolating it is to be out in a portable, both for kids and for teachers. And so to finally be a part of Valleyview again is really cool. I’m super pumped today.”
The new wing has added 20 new classrooms, an elevator, more common areas for students to casually gather between classes, inclusive, gender-neutral washrooms, and a large mural commemorating the school’s 50th anniversary.
Turner said classrooms will be filled with new whiteboards, more cabinetry and storage space, as well as new teaching technology.
“The kids were all wandering around this morning, looking at the atrium and everything, and the mural on the wall. And just so excited to be here, because this place is sweet now — it's cutting edge," he said.
Hamish Clark, a grade 9 student at Valleyview secondary, said the new wing is “definitely an upgrade.”
“I kind of feel like I'm more in a university more than high school,” Clark said.
Danna Campbell, a grade 10 student, said she has a class in the new wing and it’s much better than being out in the portables.
“The big windows letting all the natural light in, and the portables were either really hot or really cold, so just having a neutral temperature, it's nice. And it just feels more like a classroom, rather than just a box. So that's really nice,” Campbell said.
Campbell said many students are talking about having new lockers.
“Since COVID started, we haven't had lockers. … I think finally having lockers and not having to pull your stuff around everywhere, I’m really excited about my locker.”
While the $35-million addition isn’t 100 per cent complete yet, it has opened to students months ahead of its scheduled opening date in September — something grade 12 student Lilly Parker said she appreciates.
“We weren't supposed to be able to get into it, so the fact that it’s open early is really awesome, it’s an awesome experience. And it's cool to see it kind of finished, or else I wouldn’t have,” Parker said.
“My favourite part is probably how open it is, and how much space there is. Because we were sitting on the floors and benches, and now there's tables for everyone.”
Meghan Wade, vice-chair for the School District 73 board of trustees, said opening the school to students as early as April took “a monumental effort.”
Wade thanked Art McDonald — SD73’s director of facilities — senior staff, and each contractor and individual who helped move the project along.
“This took so many people to make happen, let alone to make happen early,” Wade said.
“There are elements of this wing that aren't done yet, but it's done enough to have students in here so that we do have grade 12 students that do get the experience of having classes in here for the next three months. And that's great.”
Wade said the building addition was badly needed.
“It was our most overcapacity in the district. We fought long, hard, we advocated, it is the end of five years. And we're here,” Wade said.
“To be standing here, and to have this noise, and to have kids running back and forth behind me and in front of me and have students here, it’s a wonderful, overwhelming feeling.”
Work is continuing to finish all the improvements to the addition and to the Valleyview secondary grounds.
According to the school district, the project continues on time and on budget, and will be fully complete by September 2022.