Friday, 30 September 2016 06:29

Maverick School celebrates opening of modern new facility

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A celebration of Maverick School’s new permanent home in Swift Current took place during a grand opening ceremony on Sept. 26.


Students started the new school year in the modern facility on the city’s south side, which provides a lot more space than their previous rented downtown location.
Marlee Wiebe, who is in her fifth year at the school, said the new building is full of energy.
“The energy of all the people here,” she said. “Everybody was so excited and just pumped. … I was just in awe. We have this huge, open place full of light and happy people, instead of this kind of dark, mazey weird little school that wasn’t even our own, and so now we have a home and it feels fantastic.”
Maverick School opened in October 1993.
It provides a more independent educational environment for students who are looking for an alternative to the regular school system.
The school has been located in a building at the corner of 4th Avenue N.W. and Chaplin Street West since 1996.
In March 2015, the Chinook School Division board approved a tender of $2.4 million from Frontier Construction for the new school on the KIN school site, next to the former Oman School. The project involved the renovation of the existing KIN building and a new addition.
“It’s just a monumental day in the history of the program and the school,” Chinook School Division Director of Education Liam Choo-Foo said. “The kids are so excited and we finally have a permanent home for them. It’s fantastic, it’s very gratifying.”
He recalled the discussions with staff over a new location for the school after he joined the Chinook School Division in 2002.
I remember going there for the first time and having the staff talked to me about the importance of the program for all the kids in Swift Current that needed an alternate setting,” he said.
“It was a safe place for them to come to, and so through our progression we’ve looked at different sites that could be more permanent for the school.”
The school division considered three different buildings in the city over the years, but  was unable to proceed until recently.
“Now with all of our facility changes in the city of Swift Current we have the opportunity to make use of the pre-existing KIN School and then add on to it and provide a permanent home for Maverick,” he said.
The Chinook School Division board had to make a funding commitment from reserve funds to proceed with the project.
“It was a case of when you go into the priority rating system for the Ministry of Education, this wouldn’t have rated very highly on that system,” he explained. “So the board made the statement that after so many different opportunities and this chance now, they were going to make it happen.”
Maverick School Principal Jayne Nicholson, who has been at the school since 2004, feels the financial commitment by the school division sends a strong message to students.
“I think our students have always loved their Maverick School, but I do believe that being in this environment tells them that there’s been an investment made in them and their future,” she said.
“So I think they feel valued by not the staff within Maverick School but also by the board, by the larger community of Swift Current.”
Since its inception the school has provided an opportunity to more than 230 students to graduate. It started with only six students and the current enrollment is between 70 and 75 students.
“The one thing we didn’t do at the new school was try to become a big school,” she said. “We don’t have any ambition to be a big school. We want to remain a tight, close knit family. That’s what Maverick is really about.”
Six spots for new students have been filled and another group of six will be able to start when the current group has completed the orientation.
“We run with a bit of a waiting list and we have a process that allows for students to flow in and out of their academic routine here at Maverick,” she said. “It allows for the student to remain connected to our school at all times and feel like part of the Maverick family while they may at times be taking a break from their academic work.”
The new school has many design elements that facilitates learning in a student-friendly environment. There are one, two and four-person student offices with computers for each seat, a computer lab for part-time students, a video conference room and designated areas for the art and music programs.
“Before we had to make the place work, rather than have it planned to work for us,” she said.
The area for the music program has two small practice rooms as well as a jam room. The art space makes a big difference to students who are working on projects.
“We never had any designated art space at our old school,” she said. “They can start projects now and leave them out and keep working on them. At our old school whenever they started a project, they had to put it away and clean it up, because there was no place to just leave it out.”
According to Nicholson the students and staff were able to provide input during the design phase about their needs in the new facility.
“The best part of this process was we had 100 per cent input,” she said. “It was amazing. From the very beginning when we started meeting with the board, we’ve already gathered all the information from the students as to what were the changes they were looking for in a new facility that would help them to become better learners and enjoy the space more.”
Grade 12 student Kourtney McIntyre said it is easier for students to focus on their studies and to not be distracted in the new building.
“This one is a little bit more spaced out and everyone has their own little area, so that they can work and get their work done to the best of their abilities,” she mentioned.
Grade 12 student Kirsten Hessie presented some comments from other students to the audience during the grand opening ceremony.
“All of them were about how they just love the school,” she said. “It’s so different, and it just feels like a home to everybody here.”
She also enjoys the new school’s modern and bright design and the colour scheme.
“I love it, it’s so colourful,” she said. “It fits with all the students like me here and it just fits all of our personalities because we’re a bunch of different personalities that just come together.”
Maverick School is hosting a community open house Oct. 6 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. to provide community members an opportunity to visit and tour the new facility.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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