WATCH: Westpark Middle School sod turning ceremony

WATCH: Westpark Middle School sod turning ceremony

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Red Deer is one step closer to having its newest school.

The official sod turning ceremony for the new $15-million Westpark Middle School in Red Deer was held on Wednesday afternoon.

The new building was designed with input from students and will be built just west of the current Westpark Middle School at 3310 55 Ave.

George Berry, owner of Berry Architecture, said this will be “one of the most innovative schools in the province.”

“It’s been a long process working through it and now that we’ve got to this point and cleared all the hurdles, I’m looking forward to construction starting right away,” he said.

Berry graduated from Westpark Middle School in 1978.

“This is where my architecture career began,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking a brick out of [the building] here and keeping it as a souvenir.”

A number of students were involved in the design of the new building.

Della Ruston, associate superintendent of system services for Red Deer Public School District, said their input was crucial.

“We created a design team as soon as we found out we were replacing the school rather than modernizing it,” she said.

Ruston said students came up with some very creative ideas, such as an anti-gravity room and thumb-identification for lockers.

“Some things we couldn’t accommodate but we took them all into consideration,” Ruston said.

Some student ideas that were implemented include having collaborative and outdoor spaces, no hallways and using solar technology.

The RDPSD board and the student design team wanted to make the school accessible to all children as well, said Ruston.

The school will “be 100 per cent accessible,” she said. “Some buildings will put the elevator off to the side, but our student design team said … we need to put the elevator in the middle of the building.”

A grant will be applied for to build an all-access playground at the school, Ruston added.

Exterior washrooms and a concession will be built with $200,000 provided by the City of Red Deer. Red Deer Minor Baseball also provided $100,000 for the school and will have an office inside the building.

The school is expected to be completed by September, 2019.