Special to the Times
As two local high schools near the end of their use, there is a flurry of activity going on leading up to the grand opening of their replacement.
Greater Fort Erie Secondary School, a $25-million facility that will also include a Centre for the Arts, will welcome student for the first day of classes in September and principal Fred Louws says construction is moving along nicely.
The footings, foundations and concrete walls of the structure are complete. In the building’s east wing, flooring and drywall work have started, as well as progress on the drop ceiling.
Masonry, flooring, roof joists, and decking work are complete in the school’s gymnasium, technology classrooms and learning commons area.
The steel structure and masonry walls of the Greater Fort Erie Centre for the Arts are complete.
A fundraising effort for the theatre is on its way to a goal of $2 million. The remaining $1 million of the cost is being shared by the Town of Fort Erie and District School Board of Niagara.
If the theatre was built separately from the school, it would cost 40 per cent more than constructing it in the same process, according to Louws.
To date, $605,000 has been raised but Louws anticipates this amount will increase quickly in the next several months. A major fundraiser, planned for the same weekend Fort Erie Secondary School and Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School will hold closing ceremonies, will take place at the Leisureplex.
Last year’s ‘Party on the Patio’ event raised more than $25,000 for the Embrace Greatness campaign.
It will be held May 20 this year and Louws feels it will once again make a significant impact on the $2 million goal, especially with so many alumni expected to be a part if the celebrations.
“There’s a lot of excitement for the event – plus there’s a lot of people coming in town for the weekend,” said Louws, a graduate of RCBHS who served as a teacher and principal at each school in his career.
Also, naming rights to the theatre will be given to the first party to donate $500,000 to the cause, which Louws says has created some interest in the community.
This is the first new high school built by the DSBN since Governor Simcoe in St. Catharines opened in 1971.
FESS and RCBHS were both built in 1927.
The new high school capacity will be around 850 and Louws encourages students to register as soon as possible.
If the population slightly exceeds this number, “there’s always a possibility of a portable on the site, which is actually part of the plan,” said Louws.
The site also provides enough space for an addition further down the road, which would replace any portables brought into the mix.
Looking ahead to the new era, Louws says the school will not have one specialty or area of courses – it will offer a wide variety of options for athletics, academics, arts and technology.
“If I look at those four pillars, by and large, every student should see themselves in there,” he said.
New to the local curriculum, the school will offer courses in healthcare, politics , and a Hockey Canada Skills Academy for Grade 10 students.