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New Skwo:wech Elementary school opens in New Westminster

New Skwo:wech Elementary school opens in New Westminster
NEW WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS — A rendering shows the design of Skwo:wech Elementary, a school project that was recently completed in New Westminster.

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — Crews have wrapped up work on Skwo:wech Elementary in New Westminster.

“Skwo:wech Elementary will have such a positive impact for the community, with a newly built, seismically safe school, a StrongStart classroom and dedicated child care spaces,” said Jennifer Whiteside, minister of education, in a statement. “I know the school will continue to be a place of inspiration, offering students social and academic enrichment for many years to come.”

The two-year project was envisioned to replace Richard McBride Elementary and features collaborative spaces that support innovative learning opportunities, a courtyard and top-floor views of the Fraser River.

The project cost $34.98 million, including $12.42 million for the child care centre.

“This beautiful new school is going to offer students and staff amazing opportunities to learn in new ways, with collaborative spaces that will foster creativity and a design that makes learning visible and accessible,” said Gurveen Dhaliwal, chair of the New Westminster Board of Education. “It’s not only a vital investment in the growing number of students we’re working hard to support, but also in families and the community, as we consider the soon-to-come expansion of much-needed child care spaces and the future opportunities this opens.”

As a community hub, the school hosts 400 students in kindergarten to Grade 5, in addition to early-learning and child care programs. It has a StrongStart classroom for toddlers and preschool students as well as a Neighbourhood Learning Centre with 37 child care spaces set to open next school year. The new space now accommodates the existing before- and after-school care programs within the main school, which were previously housed in a separate portable building.

Skwo:wech is the halq’eméylem word for sturgeon, and speaks to the primary food source for Indigenous people who travelled and fished up and down the Fraser River before commercial fishing boats began operating in the area.

The school’s PAC initiated the name change, with support of the board, through community feedback and consultation with Chief Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation and local stakeholder groups. The name honours Coast Salish peoples’ connections to the Fraser River and reflects both the wisdom and resilience of the sturgeon.

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