Construction of the $20-million St. Brendan's School was rushed to have it open for the start of the school year.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Construction of the $20-million St. Brendan's School was rushed to have it open for the start of the school year.

September 26, 2016
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Parents, students and teachers beamed with excitement as they arrived at St. Brendan Elementary/Junior High Catholic School for the first day of classes.

The new principal, Dale Astill, welcomed almost everybody with a handshake and a wide smile. Most looked with admiration at the $20-million building, which was built over the past two years as a replacement school for the now-closed St. Kevin and St. James schools.

The Ottewell area school, at 9260-58 St., opened four months ahead of schedule to avoid disruptions to the school year. It will serve about 550 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 this year.

"I like it," declared Grade 9 student Mackenzie Nieckar. "Everything is new and fresh. I'm very excited."

Student Nicholas Mogollon, formerly of St. Kevin's, also liked what he saw. "It's very nice," he said. "It is way better than my old school - bigger, nicer. I like everything about it."

Principal Dale Astill welcomes students to the new St. Brendan's School.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Principal Dale Astill welcomes students to the new St. Brendan's School.

Teacher Tetyana Kearnan was equally excited.

"It's beautiful. Students and staff will have an amazing opportunity to enjoy the school year in a new building," said Kearnan, who teaches social studies and Ukrainian language arts.

"The building is much more spacious; it has lots of rooms, a library and common areas where students can work in groups. We have new technologies; so it's 21st-century learning."

Assistant principal Julieta Zelada said she enjoyed seeing the students' reactions to the new school. "The building is beautiful. I think the kids love it," she said. "It's a day of pride for everyone."

Zelada described the school as an open concept. "We have a learning commons where kids are able to gather and do projects," she noted. On the second floor, there's a flex-space room and a chapel, each of which have windows that open onto a rooftop patio.

Except for a few details, construction is largely finished.

"The last thing that needs to be finished off in the next few weeks is the CTS lab and the food and fashion lab. Everything else is completely done," Zelada said. The landscaping of the school grounds is also expected to be completed soon.

Claudia Vega, who came to drop off her daughter Isabela, was impressed.

"I like this school. It's very open, lots of glass; I can't wait to see this in the summertime with the sun (shining in)."

Students and staff will look on the world through the stained glass cross in St. Brendan's chapel.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Students and staff will look on the world through the stained glass cross in St. Brendan's chapel.

Isabela, 12, comes from Father Leo Green School, where she completed Grade 6. Vega decided to enrol her at St. Brendan "because we wanted to continue her education in Spanish, which they offer here."

NO STRANGER

Astill, who led a brief tour of the school after welcoming students and parents, is no stranger to the community. He started his career as assistant principal at St. Brendan some 10 years ago and has been principal of St. James for the last few years.

"So I knew (St. Brendan) school when it was much smaller and much older," he said. "It's full circle. It's a privilege."

The school features two impressive gyms and a library that is unlike any other library.

"This is a learning commons, a flexible learning space," Astill clarified. "It'll be shared by both the elementary and junior high students. We'll be able to run all our wireless technology through here.

"Eventually, all of the shelves will be filled with books." The learning commons extends to the second floor.

CHAPEL HIGHLIGHT

"This will be our highlight," Astill said, pointing to the empty chapel. "We are going to create an ancillary religion space. When we put our furniture in it we are going to turn it into an ancillary religion classroom so students can sit and learn and pray."