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Photo by Laura Lennie

Photo by Laura Lennie

The new St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School being built at 161 Barton St. will relieve overcrowding at Immaculate Heart of Mary. Immaculate Heart, opened at 190 Glover Rd. in late 2006, has 16 portables.

Winona Catholic school on track

By Laura Lennie, News Staff

The chair of Hamilton’s Catholic school board says he expects construction to begin “any day now” on a new Winona elementary school that is being built to relieve overcrowding at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pat Daly said the contractor is in the final stages of site preparation for St. Gabriel Catholic Elementary School at 161 Barton St.

“There’s one services agreement that has to be finalized between the city and the board and that’s not unusual,” he said last Friday. “The city’s been cooperating with us and they’re all working hard to get it done quickly. We’re on schedule to have it open for September 2015.”

The board made a new Winona elementary school the top priority when it applied to the Ministry of Education for its capital funding allotment in 2011.

A board study found the community is growing exponentially, with Immaculate Heart of Mary, opened at 190 Glover Rd. in late 2006, already bursting at its seams.

The school had been constructed to accommodate 506 pupils.

It currently holds 878 students and has 16 portables.

“Immaculate Heart of Mary is overcrowded,” Daly said. “The principal and staff have done a fantastic job and the parents have been very understanding in that circumstance. We’re pleased that very shortly, we’ll have the opportunity to move a number of the students over to St. Gabriel and get rid of a lot of the portables at Immaculate Heart.”

The board received $9.8 million from the ministry and purchased just over two hectares of land across from Winona Park for the new elementary school about three years ago.

Last month, it awarded the tender to Tambro Construction for about $10.5 million and used some of its capital reserves to make up the difference in cost.

Daly said the board’s process to choose a name for the school began about six months to a year ago.

The process included consulting with the Immaculate Heart of Mary school community, parish, trustees and others in the neighbourhood who were interested in putting forth names, he said.

“We forwarded that list of names, those that complied with our policy, on to the bishop,” Daly said. “The bishop then recommended one from amongst that list. The board heartily endorsed and approved his choice of St. Gabriel.”

Daly said the new 57,330-square-foot, two-storey elementary school will be “state of the art.”

“It will have all of the most up-to-date technology,” he said. “There will be a learning resource library, along with an oversized gymnasium. It also will offer full-day kindergarten classes.”

St. Gabriel is being constructed to accommodate 504 pupils.

Daly said the school’s population will be made up of some students from Immaculate Heart of Mary and others who live within the catchment area, which extends to the Grimsby border between the escarpment and lakeshore and enclave west of Winona Road.

As the Winona community continues to grow, St. Gabriel will open either at or very close to capacity, he said.

“There’s room for portables at the site,” Daly said. “I can’t say when there will be portables added. But I would expect that to happen shortly after it opens.”

Daly said the school has been a long time coming.

“We’re very appreciative of the support of the staff and the parent community of Immaculate Heart of Mary,” he said. “We’re happy that we’ll have this new school to respond to the need of the fast-growing community.”

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