The brute force of heavy equipment is replaced with a graceful dance; the chorus of construction no longer drowns out the melodies and harmonies of music and song; raw material has given art a canvas.
After two years of construction, Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School celebrated the four pillars of the arts—art, drama, dance and music—at its grand re-opening on Friday, November 20. The $13.5 million expansion and renovation that began in the spring of 2013 included new a gymnasium with a stage, new art and dance studios, and new and renovated classrooms.
"For parents, students and staff in this community, this renovation has been a long time coming," said Diane Boyko, board chair for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. "There were many meetings with members of the school, the school community council and the ministry to discuss when this would come to fruition. We are thankful for the government's investment in the only fine arts school in our division. The expansion and upgrades give students and staff what they need to excel in core education and learning—all in a setting that inspires and allows their artistic expression to flourish."
"This was an important project for our government that will contribute to the success of Saskatoon's only fine arts school and the many great programs it offers students," said Don Morgan, minister of education, in a news release. "We understand that in order to give students and families in Saskatchewan a great quality of life, we need to ensure that we're meeting the demands of growth by investing in our schools."
"There were definitely some challenges teaching in an active construction zone, but there were lots of challenges to having overcrowded classrooms and inadequate facilities, too," said Don Remizowski, principal at Georges Vanier. "I want to thank everyone—students, parents and staff—for their patience and perseverance over the last couple of years."
The Catholic School Community Council also spear-headed building a new playground. Over $95,000 was raised from sponsors, fundraising events and generous donors in the community. Remizowski said, "I especially want to thank everyone who supported the new playground. It wasn't part of the renovation—it was our community rallying behind a project for our kids."
During the celebration Remizowski also announced the school erected two plaques in memory of staff who have passed on: one in the library for Loralee Doepker who served as teacher and vice-principal, and one on a bench in the playground for Linda Snell, an educational assistant.
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A brief history of Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School:
- Opened in September 1958 as Christ the King School. Joe Kammermayer was the first principal of the four-classroom school that had 130 students in Grades 1 through 8.
- In 1961, two classrooms were added to the front of the school.
- In 1963, more classrooms and a gymnasium were added to the south side of the building.
- In 1967, the school was renamed after the Right Honourable Georges Vanier, Governor General of Canada—a devout Catholic who visited the city years earlier and agreed to have the school named after him. The name was revised to Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School in 2014.
- In 1968, school enrolment hit 367 students.
- In the late-1970s, establishing a fine arts school was considered and researched to counter declining enrolments because of an aging neighbourhood.
- In 1979, a full slate of teachers were hired for both their teaching ability and expertise in specific areas of fine arts.
- Over the next three years, test scores for many students improved, dispelling any concerns that a fine arts school detracts from academic learning.
- In 2011, the expansion and renovation was approved in the provincial budget.
Stages of project: start date: April 2013; final cost: $13.5 million; and date: fall 2015
-Current enrolment is 347 students.