Students walk through the atrium at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Fort Erie’s new high school feels like a university, staff are saying on the first day of classes at the $30-million facility on Garrison Road.
The first secondary school built by the District School Board of Niagara since 1971, Greater Fort Erie Secondary School (GFESS) officially welcomed its 850 students on Tuesday. Only a couple of hours after the doors opened principal Fred Louws said it’s great to hear the positive feedback he’s received so far.
“It’s like the Harvard of Niagara,” he said on Tuesday morning, thrilled to show off the new digs to Postmedia.
“The day is finally here – there will be lots of new beginnings and new traditions,” he said.
Teacher Patrick Sirianni, one of many who have moved their classroom from Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School (RCBHS) or Fort Erie Secondary School (FESS), said he hasn’t seen anything like the new building.
“I’ve never been in a facility like this – when it comes to secondary school,” said the English teacher who also compared it to a university or college.
“It’s absolutely incredible – there’s not a room in this building that isn’t exceptional,” he said.
Grade 12B student Riley Wright said she likes “everything” about the new school and that she decided to take advantage of some of the new advanced classes at GFESS, waiting another year before heading to college or university.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to come back and learn a few more things before I go off into the real world,” she said.
Her friend Lauryn Fitzpatrick agreedand is excited for the school’s cosmetology program, a continuation of the one she took at FESS.
“It’s a much larger room and it has a lot of equipment – I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
Staff and students aren’t the only people ecstatic about the facility. It’s also receiving praise from parents.
Julie Teal, whose son Drew Beam just entered Grade 9, said the new football field and many other amenities inside the school are great.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said.
“I was surprised how modern it can be but still look how you’d expect a high school to look – there’s a feeling of ease and comfort that I think will create a calm learning atmosphere,” she added.
A grand opening ceremony will be held on Oct. 25 with members of the community and dignitaries invited.
GFESS was built to replace FESS and RCBHS, buildings that are both almost 100 years old.
The new high school, which has 47 classrooms, also includes a $3-million arts theatre, with two thirds of the cost coming from a fundraising campaign. It needs to raise $2 million by next September and to date, has brought in about $750,000.