SOD TURNING - Local dignitaries and representatives involved in the new Westpark Middle School took part in a sod turning ceremony Oct. 4th at the current school. The school is expected to be complete in June of 2019. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

VIDEO: New Westpark Middle School will see many unique features

Red Deer’s new school is expected to be completed by June of 2019

The official sod turning ceremony took place Oct. 4th for the new Westpark Middle School, which involved a unique opportunity – the help of the current school’s students in the design process.

The $15.4 million project will see many unique features.

Because of an additional $750,000 from the provincial government, the school will have a photo voltaic system going in that will generate close to 40% of the electricity used in the building.

Other highlights of the new school will involve lots of glass features, an elevator front and centre, teaching spaces, a community garden for the Learning and Pathways students and more.

“We really see this being one of the most innovative schools in the province not only from the process that we work through but the implementation of the systems that are going in,” said George Berry of Berry Architecture + Associates and project designer for the school.

The new school will incorporate a number of community partnerships including a concession and exterior washrooms for community use funded by the City of Red Deer, which contributed around $200,000.

There will be an office for Red Deer Minor Baseball which contributed around $100,000, along with a third floor teaching and observation mezzanine for Red Deer College.

A large part of the design elements were from the help of the school’s Student Design Committee, which will continue working with Berry Architecture throughout the construction process.

Shunda Consulting & Construction and the sub-trades will also be involved with the committee on an ongoing basis.

“We created a design team as soon as we found out we were replacing the school rather than modernizing it, so we actually have students who are now currently in high school in Grade 9 that were on the original design team,” said Della Ruston, associate superintendent of system services for Red Deer Public School District.

Ruston said the students had some pretty outlandish and creative ideas, including a non-gravity room and thumb identification for lockers instead of locks.

“There were some of the things we couldn’t accommodate, but we took all of their (ideas) into serious consideration,” she said.

Other suggestions by students included a no wifi zone, an area in the school where they had to speak to each other instead of texting on their phones.

That unfortunately couldn’t take place due to security reasons.

Some of the things they are going forward with are the collaborative spaces.

“We didn’t want to have hallways, we wanted to look at it as one big learning area, so what we did was put in all kinds of educational elements so that students could see how mechanical systems worked, how electrical systems worked, plumbing, so they could see how the water systems worked, so we put a lot of glazing into the building,” she said, adding that a lot of that came from the students.

They always had solar technology as part of the project, which the students really wanted.

“They wanted outdoor spaces, so we’ll have some of those, so we really took all of the things that they had to say into serious consideration and have implemented a lot of those elements,” said Ruston.

Berry said the school will be 100% accessible, something that was very important to the students.

“In this school you come in the front door, you’re going to see that elevator. The kids wanted it to be front and centre,” said Berry.

Berry, who used to be a former student there, said it’s been a long process, but that he looks forward to the construction.

“Here I tell everybody this is where my architectural career began, so it’s pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to taking a brick out of the room back here and keeping it as a souvenir.”

The new school will be located southwest of the existing school and is expected to be completed by June of 2019, with students starting that September.

Demolition of the existing school will take place once the new school is occupied.