Three new elementary schools will open in London’s booming north end Tuesday

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It’s one thing to start September with a new outfit, fresh pencils, or the latest pop culture-themed backpack — but what about a brand new school?

Several hundred elementary school students in London are doing just that Tuesday, setting foot in three new schools — modern, multimillion-dollar mega-builds — on the first day of classes.

The schools aren’t all complete, with deliveries still rolling in on Labour Day and construction expected to continue in some areas for several months. But the three gleaming new structures in north London are ready for the little faces that will turn them from spaces into schools.

“I’m really excited,” 10-year-old Natalie Froats said Monday in the office of Cedar Hollow public school, in the northeast part of the city.

Surprised by how spacious the school is, she said she was looking forward to meeting “new people, new teachers, new friends.”

Older sister Ella Froats was happy to get a look at her new school.

Their friend Alex Wild called the new school “gorgeous.”

She’s looking forward to swapping tales about the first day of school with her 12-year-old twin brother, who decided to stay at their old stomping grounds, Northridge public school.

Given the choice — stay at Northridge or test the waters at Cedar Hollow — Wild chose the new school. She came to school with the Froats on Labour Day, wondering if they could help unload boxes or set up supplies, Wild’s mom said.

The anticipation of a new school was motivating, not just for the kids, but for staff who have hustled to make their mark on the new buildings in just a few short days.

Teachers at Sir Arthur Currie public school, amid sprawling subdivisions in the city’s northwest, first got a glimpse of their new digs last Thursday.

“It was almost like Christmas morning when they could finally get in here,” principal Sue Bruyns said.

The Sir Arthur Currie team worked long hours up until Sunday to get the classrooms ready for the 430 young minds that will flood through the doors Tuesday.

“Even 72 hours ago, it didn’t look as if it was going to be ready to go, but people really pulled together,” Bruyns said.

Students won’t have access to the gym and library for a few weeks, as those spaces are holding materials for the family and child-care centre that will be adjacent to the school.

“This is very much a construction site,” Bruyns said.

But many spaces are ready, and staff are enthusiastic about the resources available, the principal said, including specialized furniture such as wobbly stools that allow wiggly kids to move while they learn.

The two new Thames Valley builds — Sir Arthur Currie and Cedar Hollow public schools — will accommodate 1,160 kids from kindergarten to Grade 8 and will both include child-care centres for pre-school kids. The combined price tag for the Thames board’s two big-ticket projects — its first new school openings since 2010 — is more than $30 million.

The London District Catholic school board is also debuting a new school in north London, an area booming with new development.

“North London is growing by leaps and bounds. Our two north schools, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Kateri, they’re bursting at the seams,” board chair John Jevnikar said.

“We’re looking to ease the pressure there.”

After more than 16 months of construction, the board is opening St. John Catholic French Immersion. London District Catholic school board spokesperson Mark Adkinson said the $12-million, 4,412-square-metre build is the school of the future, with lots of natural light, energy-efficient features and a common area filled with Google Chromebooks, iPads, moveable desks and seating.

St. John is replacing an aging building on Hill Street. The old school was much smaller, both in square footage and student spaces for the in-demand French immersion program.

“We have two (French immersion) schools in London and both are basically at capacity right now,” Adkinson said.

“It was unanticipated, exponential growth over the last number of years.”

The three new London builds are among 25 new elementary and secondary schools opening across Ontario this fall as a result of a $420-million investment from the province. Twenty-nine more schools received additions or major renovations.

jbieman@postmedia.com

mstacey@postmedia.com

THE NEW SCHOOLS

Sir Arthur Currie public school

2435 Buroak Dr.

Capacity: 535 students

Cost: $14.3 million

Cedar Hollow public school

1800 Cedarhollow Blvd.

Capacity: 625 students

Cost: $16.2 million

St. John Catholic French Immersion

1212 Coronation Dr.

Capacity: 500 students

Cost: $12 million


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