Construction of new K-12 school in Atikokan to move forward
Public elementary and high schools to be combined in northwestern Ontario town
A major school capital renewal project that will combine the public elementary and high schools in Atikokan, Ont. is taking the next step forward.
The tender for the nearly $27-million project to consolidate Atikokan High School and the North Star Community School was approved by Rainy River District School Board trustees at a meeting earlier this week.
The consolidation was first approved by the school board in 2017, with provincial funding announced in 2018. At that time, the school was expected to open for the start of the 2020 academic year.
Heather Campbell, the director of education for the Rainy River District School Board, said the process to get the project ready for construction, receive approval from the province to proceed to tender from the province and the COVID-19 pandemic all contributed to its current timeline.
The new building would also include a 49-space child care facility as well as an EarlyON child and family centre.
Campbell said there was mainly positive feedback from the community when the decision to consolidate the schools was under consideration, but there was some caution about having children as young as the age of four sharing a building with senior high school students.
She said there are benefits of bringing the school communities together, which include reading buddy mentorship programs or placements for high school students in the daycare or kindergarten classes.
"Most communities are seeing a decline in population and we have many schools in those communities. They are hubs, they are really important institutions for the community," Campbell said.
"At the same time, we're always very cautious about when the maintenance and heating and lighting of the building starts to creep into programming dollars. It's the efficiency, but also seeing Grade 7 and 8 students accessing science labs and being able to participate in high school productions, you really see that coming together of a school community."
Construction of the school will take place on the site of the high school but the existing Grayson Hall gymnasium and the Outers facility will both remain.
Campbell said construction will be a multi-year process done in phases.
"This will take a little longer because of the phasing. We have students and staff in the school when construction is going on so that does stretch your timeline out," Campbell said.
"In the end, we are meeting the needs of the students and the staff and creating a community school that will provide enhanced programming spaces for now and into the future."