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Photos: Ribbon-cutting opens new Skwo:wech Elementary School

Students, staff, parents and VIPs celebrated at New Westminster's newest school on Monday.

With the rubble of the old Richard McBride Elementary School as a backdrop, the Skwo:wech Elementary School community welcomed its new school with an official opening ceremony on Monday.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside, New Westminster school board chair Gurveen Dhaliwal and Qayqayt Chief Rhonda Larrabee were among the special guests on hand for the ceremony held June 6 in the school gym, followed by a ribbon-cutting in the courtyard outside.

Funding for the $35-million school was first announced in 2018, and construction kicked off in 2020. After a challenging couple of years that included setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the B.C. floods of 2021, the school was completed and ready for move-in this past March.

The new school replaces the old building formerly known as Richard McBride Elementary, which dated back to 1929. It was deemed in need of replacement because of its high seismic risk.

“Skwo:wech Elementary will have such a positive impact for the community, with a newly built, seismically safe school, a StrongStart classroom and dedicated child-care spaces,” Whiteside said. “I know the school will continue to be a place of inspiration, offering students social and academic enrichment for many years to come.”

The school houses more than 400 students in kindergarten through Grade 5, plus early-learning and child-care space. In the new school year, 37 child-care spaces will open in the school’s Neighbourhood Learning Centre.

“At the heart of every great community is a fabulous school,” Whiteside told the crowd at the opening ceremony. “It is a true community hub for families and students to call home.”

PAC chair Jen Knight spoke to the importance of the school’s new name, which was chosen after an extensive consultation process involving students, staff, community members and the Qayqayt First Nation. The name “Skwo:wech” is the halq’eméylem word for sturgeon.

The opening ceremony included attendance by local dignitaries, including city council and school board representatives, plus school district staff, a few parents and a limited number of students. The remainder of the school was able to watch the ceremony by livestream in their classrooms.

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