FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Education Minister Rob Fleming was in Fort St. John today to attend the grand opening of the new Margaret ‘Ma’ Murray Community School and groundbreaking ceremony for the Northeast Elementary School.
Blueberry River First Nation Chief Marvin Yahey and drummers from the First Nation opened this afternoon’s ceremony to bless the new 365-seat elementary school on the city’s west side.
Chief Yahey is the youngest grandson of Bella Yahey, for whom the Bella Yahey Gathering Centre near the new school’s entrance is named.
Margie Graham, the granddaughter of Alaska Highway News founder and school namesake Margaret ‘Ma’ Murray, also spoke this afternoon about the important role her grandmother played in the North Peace region. Murray founded the Alaska Highway News in Fort St. John in the 1940’s and received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian journalism.
Minister Fleming spoke about the importance of the new school in the Fort St. John area, pointing to the high birth rate and low average age of the North Peace region.
“Students in the fast-growing Peace River North School District will have new, inspiring spaces in which to learn,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “With one school opening and another with shovels in the ground, parents can rest assured that their kids will be in comfortable, state-of-the-art learning environments.”
The Ministry of Education provided $22.1 million towards building the new school, but Fleming also acknowledged the contributions of the City of Fort St. John, BC Hydro, and the Ministry of Children and Family Development towards construction.
The City contributed $2.5 million to expand the school’s gym, while BC Hydro and the Ministry gave $1.8 million and $500,000 respectively to build and support the school’s daycare centre.
“It is extremely gratifying to see the project go from an idea to a vision on an architect’s drawing, to the stunning building we see before us,” said Doug Boyd, Peace River North School District assistant superintendent. “Margaret (Ma) Murray Community school is another example of partnerships in action that will benefit the district and local communities well into the future.”
Fleming was also on hand for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the as-yet renamed Northeast Elementary School under construction across 112th Ave. from the Fort St. John Hospital.
The Education Minister announced in late June that the Province was contributing $31.1 million to build the new school, on which construction has already begun.
While construction on the new school was originally set to be complete by January of 2021, School District #60 has set a target date of having the school open by September 2020, a timeline of just two years.
Assistant superintendent Boyd said today that site preparation is nearly complete, and crews have already built concrete forms in preparation to pour the school’s foundation.