Tenders to be called in the spring
© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
The Lions Park on Hickman Street has been picked as the site of a new West Highlands Elementary School. Education Minister Ramona Jennex confirmed the selection on Thursday. Tenders will be called in the spring and the school will open in September 2014.
AMHERST – The long wait is over for supporters of a new elementary school for the West Highlands area.
Education Minister Ramona Jennex confirmed Thursday that the Lions Park property has been selected as the site for a new $11.1-million elementary school to replace the century-old West Highlands Elementary.
The 2.8-hectare site is in the centre of the existing school’s catchment area. It presently houses a park and the Lion Cecil Small Ballfield.
Tenders for construction will be called in the spring and the minister expects the building to be ready for occupancy in September 2014.
“I’m so pleased to be able to make this announcement because I know how much they need a new school,” Jennex said Thursday. “I went into the school and it’s in need of replacement. It’s like a dungeon downstairs.”
The Lions Park property was chosen over both the Harold Lusby property on West Victoria Street and the Victoria Crossing site on Russell Street. It’s the second time the Lusby property was rejected.
“The Lions site scored high in many areas and on many issues it was very clear it is the right choice to build a school for the students,” the minister said.
School principal Kevin Mapplebeck said the news is exciting.
“It’s great news because now it’s done and we can move on and get ready for our new school,” Mapplebeck said. “We all went through the process the first time and it fell through, but at the end of the day it was worth the wait.”
Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar said the minister talked to him about the school on Wednesday. He’s happy the long wait is over.
“There are a few things that have to be looked after before tenders are called, but I expect construction to begin in the spring,” Skabar said. “I’m glad that it’s being built and as much as anything else, while I’m disappointed it was delayed for a year, I’m so pleased it’s being built in the right spot. That school’s going to be there for 40 or 50 years and the children won’t have to be bused or cross the busiest street in Amherst to get there.”
Skabar credits Amherst town councillor Terry Rhindress for pitching the Lions Park as a possible site and working to bring the town and the Lions Club together to make a bid after the minister rejected the original preferred sites last year.
“It was Terry who came with the suggestion in the first place and we put a considerable effort into stopping the first process,” Skabar said. “As far as the site goes, this is the best place because it’s a West Highlands site. It took a little longer, but it was for the right reasons.”
Rhindress said he is excited that his dream is coming true.
“It’s something I dreamed about and I’m happy to see that it’s going to happen,” Rhindress said. “I know the people of West Highlands are going to be so excited with this news.”