Sarnia schools get summer overhaul

A ‘cherry picker’ waits in front of the renamed St. Patrick’s High School on Rapids Parkway, which has undergone a $14.6-million expansion and upgrade. Troy Shantz, for The Journal

Cathy Dobson

When students return to classes on Tuesday they’ll find an almost unprecedented numbers of renovations and building projects at Sarnia schools.

All new classrooms, heating systems, parking and fewer portables will get the school year off to a good start, officials say.

The largest project by far is the completion of a $14.6-million addition and renovation at St. Patrick’s High School (formerly St. Christopher).

“I think students will be surprised by the changes, particularly anyone who left for a year and is coming back,” said Jim McKenzie, associate director of corporate services at the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

“There’s a totally different look and feel to the building. It’s exciting for the school and the kids.”

The new St. Pat’s on Rapids Parkway has a 60,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate 1,350 students from the former St. Chris and the old St. Pat’s on East Street.

The East Street building was closed in June and will soon be appraised and put up for sale.

The interior of the new, expanded school was repainted this summer in green, blue and gold to reflect St. Pat’s and the gym was “rebranded,” said McKenzie.

“Probably the biggest change is that the library has moved to the second floor to make way for a new drama area on the main floor,” he said.

The cafeteria is expanded, extra classrooms were built, and science labs, a new special education area, health sciences room, new cosmetology room and food services classrooms were added.

The board also spent money preparing for the roll out of all-day kindergarten to every student this fall, including a $900,000 renovation with four new classrooms at Gregory Hogan School.

The Lambton Kent District School Board spent $8 million preparing for all-day kindergarten.

Conversions were done this summer at Bright’s Grove, Errol Road, High Park, Cathcart Boulevard and Sir John Moore elementary schools.

“It’s been one of our busiest summers for construction and maintenance work,” said Ron Andruchow, business superintendent.

At Cathcart, two classrooms were added and parking improvements made at a cost of $1.1 million. Starting Sept. 2, students will no longer have to board buses from the road. A new bus lane makes it possible for pick-up at the front of the school, and new parking has been added for visitors and teachers.

While most classroom construction will be ready by Tuesday, some work remains to be done at Cathcart, High Park, and Sir John Moore.

Students at Northern Collegiate won’t see where $450,000 was spent on their school this summer, but they might feel feel it when the snow flies. Part of a multi-year upgrade to the school’s heating system was completed, Andruchow said.