The ground was ceremoniously broken this week for the new Riverside Public School in Elmira, though construction has been underway since July.
School board officials, architects from Toronto’s Kingsland Plus group and local politicians were on hand Wednesday afternoon for the official turning of the sod.
“We will be giving a full update on the project’s progress on September 21, but as of now, there is no reason to believe there will be any delays or issues,” Waterloo Region District School Board superintendent of business and treasurer Matthew Gerard said.
Scheduled to open for classes in September 2016, the $15.5-million project – $4 million for the Region of Waterloo child care centre, $11.5 million for the school – will replace the existing school on William Street with a location in the centre of the new Lunor subdivision on the northwest side of town.
The WRDSB facility will host junior kindergarten through Grade 6 students, along with a daycare run by the region.
Plans for the new school took off last year after a WRDSB boundary study conducted in 2012-13 showed that Elmira’s public elementary schools were over capacity.
“The new Riverside PS attendance area was determined as part of the Elmira elementary schools boundary study that concluded November 25, 2013,” a statement from the board read. “The boundary will include all of the current Riverside PS boundary, as well as the Country Club Estates (Finoro Homes) subdivision.”
According to the board, Elmira public elementary schools were an average of 136 per cent over capacity in 2013, with Riverside PS at 318 per cent over its recommended enrollment limit.
Together with renovations at John Mahood PS, grade organizational changes and the new Riverside facility, the WRDSB decided to maintain existing boundaries.
But with two major developments on the books for Elmira (Lunor and Birdland), questions remain regarding whether the WRDSB will be able to service the influx of families to the community in the coming years.
According to board projections, the new Riverside PS will be roughly at its capacity of 557 students by 2018.
While those estimates show that enrollment level remaining flat through 2023, the use of portables could come into play early into the facility’s lifecycle.
“We are prepared for that possibility and we always prepare for that because sometimes students don’t always come in the grades you might want them to and with class size requirements, sometimes it doesn’t break out nicely in terms of the number of classrooms that are needed,” said Nathan Hercanuck, a senior planner with the WRDSB.
With 24 classrooms, two elevators, a double gym and a traditional stage, the school will sit on a 6.82-acre lot.