The city’s newest school opened this week to an excited group of students and staff.
Classes got underway Wednesday at Fraser River Middle School, the second of three new schools for New Westminster. With the opening of the Grade 6 to 8 school, the district completes its middle school initiative. Now students from all areas of the city will move from elementary school to middle school before heading to high school.
On Friday, staff invited students and their parents to the new school to check it out for themselves in advance of classes starting this week. Mingling among the visitors was Fraser River Middle School principal Debbie Jones. Jones, like many of the parents, was blown away by the new building.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, I mean look at it. It’s so bright. And the energy, you can feel the energy from the kids as you’re walking around, and all the parents are super happy. Everybody is just super excited,” Jones told the Record.
An anticipated 460 students are expected to attend the new school during its inaugural year. While thatnumber could change once final enrollment numbers are tallied later this month, 460 already exceeds the initial estimate of 425, according to Pat Duncan, New Westminster school district superintendent.
“A brand new school draws a lot of attention and rightly so, and this is such a beautifully designed school, and with the learner in mind, I think a lot of families are quite excited about having their children go to school here,” he said.
The final price tag for the new school isn’t in yet, but Duncan doesn’t expect it’ll go over its $19.8 million budget, even with a one-year delay. The building, meanwhile, is, for the most part complete. As with any new school, however, Duncan expects it’ll need some tweaking once staff and students have had some time to settle in.
“Any time you build a brand new structure, there’s always some finishing pieces here and there,” he said. “Those are all touch-ups and piddly little things.”
The facility features new spaces meant to foster students’ growth, including a new learning commons – a new term used for library. The learning commons will include rows of books, like a library, as well as computer stations and an interactive television atop a raised platform that students can use to make presentations to their peers.
“We’ve decided on the stacks now; we’re going to have curved stacks just to go with the flow of the curve,” Jones said. “Sometimes you just got to be in a space to see what’s going to make it a comfortable area.”
With the middle school up and running, the district’s attention now shifts to the new high school, which is expected to open three years from now. Duncan, however, is happy to take some time to enjoy the middle school just a little longer.
“It’s wonderful to be watching the children walk up the street to the new school here by the office,” he said.
Fraser River Middle School is located at 800 Queens Ave. (on the corner of Eighth Street and Queens Avenue).
- Architect Mark Mathiasen says the design for Fraser River Middle School is intended to meet the “dramatic shift” in how we teach and learn.
- The new school cost an estimated $19.8 million and took two-and-a-half years to build.
- Feeder schools include: Connaught Heights, Lord Tweedsmuir, Lord Kelvin and Qayqayt elementary schools.
- The new facility was built on the old John Robson elementary site and is nearly 60,000 square feet.
- Fraser River Middle School was built to Leed gold standard and has a capacity for 500 students.
– Source: New Westminster school district