For one night only last week, the spotlight shone bright on the newly constructed St. Joseph High School (SJHS) in Red Deer.
Students, parents, teachers and media were able to get a special sneak peek of the new building, which was completed under budget and three months ahead of schedule, while also enjoying entertainment from some talented students from around the community during a Spotlight showcase fundraiser at the new school last Thursday night.
“It’s been a long process. It’s been a really amazing process but to see it today with all the kids in it is truly what we’re here for. Just to see their excitement kind of brings excitement to us and it reminds us of why we’re doing what we’re doing,” said SJHS Principal Graeme Daniel of the event, which raised money for the Red Deer Catholic Education Foundation.
The school, which is slated to open in September, is designed around what Daniel described as authentic learning, or learning that teaches kids how to live in the real world.
“We really want to teach kids how to function in the 21st century. How to manage that world, how to live in that world and how to prosper in that world,” Daniel said, adding that the education is delivered through a Catholic lens. “Everything we do here is built around our faith. From a faith perspective and from a collaboration perspective, that’s what makes this building unique and special.”
The biggest special feature of the new high school, Daniel said, is the openness of the building.
“We’ve moved away from traditional learning environments where we’re square, closed classrooms. We’ve created fluidity with open areas, garage doors that open into different instructional spaces,” he explained, noting the building won’t have any individual desks and will instead focus on a more collaborative approach to learning.
Each of the building’s main instructional spaces consists of three classroom spaces and a wet lab are connected to a large, open learning commons area. The classrooms are separated from the main area using garage doors which can open and close.
The school also doesn’t have any hallways in the traditional sense. While students walk the halls from class to class, the open areas in the halls will also be used as instructional space for various classes.
For example, the school’s robotics area is located in an open space on the upper floor between the fabrications room and the advanced computer lab to facilitate fluidity between the three main components of the course.
“When you come back in September to see the school, you’ll see instructional pieces in those areas like tables and desks and collaborative areas for students,” Daniel said.
In addition to the unique openness of the school, St. Joseph’s is also part of a collaboration with the Red Deer Royals Show Marching Band which brought about the construction of the Kinsmen Field House – Home of the Red Deer Royals.
The space is a structure big enough to accommodate the entire Red Deer Royals’ 90-plus member marching band that can also be used by the school as instructional space or to host athletics tournaments.
“We’re really excited about the partnership with the Royals. It gives our community a different space that they haven’t had before, it gives our school access to a space that we haven’t had before in our division,” said Daniel of the huge gymnasium which houses three full-sized gymnasium’s-worth of space.
The school is expecting just over 500 students in September, well below its 900 student capacity.