New West Highlands will open next September
© Darrell Cole – Amherst News
Crews from Beale and Inch Construction prepare land at the former Lions Park property for the new $11.1-million West Highlands Elementary School slated to open in September 2014.
AMHERST – Work has officially begun on what will be Amherst’s newest elementary school when it opens a year from now.
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Maurice Smith said Wednesday that while the final design has yet to be completed, work on site preparation began Aug. 18.
“This is a design-build, meaning as part of the tender award, the builder will design the school,” Smith said in an email to the Amherst News. “While we wait for the final design submission, we can still establish the footings and foundation. That’s the stage we’re in right now.”
Once finished, the minister said, the new 42,000 square-foot school will be two stories high and will be L-shaped with 12 classrooms in the academic wing.
A library, cafeteria, music room and a 5,200 square-foot gymnasium will be in the other wing, along with various support and service spaces throughout the building.
Smith said the project includes a new soccer field that will be available for use in 2015.
The school will have 275 students from Grades Primary to 6 when completed.
“As a LEED Gold Project, there will be generous natural lighting, including windows that open and outdoor learning spaces,” the minister said. “The new school will also have state of the art electronics and environmental control systems installed.”
Premier Darrell Dexter and Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar attended a sod-turning ceremony on the school site several weeks ago, while the former Lions Park and Lion Cecil Small Ball Park were both cleared in preparation for the project.
The school will replace century-old West Highlands Elementary on Hickman Street.
The project was originally announced in December 2010 with a completion in time for the coming school year. It was delayed as the province reopened the site selection process after the original submissions weren’t acceptable to the province.
The Lions property was identified as a site by former school employee and town councillor Terry Rhindress, who brought the idea to council. The property was made available as part of a land swap with the existing school property being transferred to the Lions Club after the school project is completed.
"I was up the other day to check it out and it's really exciting to see that work has begun," said Rhindress. "I can't wait to go in the new school for the first time. I just hope it's on time."
Since it’s a new school project it’s being managed by the province. The stalled River Hebert school project is being managed by the school board since it’s a renovation project.
Last week, Education Minister Ramona Jennex said she expects the board to be in a position to call tenders to finish the project.