New Stz’uminus Secondary School will open its doors to public May 31

Everyone is invited to see the new Stz'uminus Secondary School during an Open House May 31.

The Stz’uminus First Nation’s “jewel in the forest” will open its doors to the public May 31 for a special Open House viewing.

The new Stz’uminus Secondary School, a project more than 10 years in the making, has completed construction, and excitement is building as the school prepares for the start of the 2012-13 school year in September.

The open house will be an opportunity for members of the public to catch a glimpse of the beautiful building, which is located at 3951 Shell Beach Rd.

“The community and the leadership have been waiting a long time for this,” said Charlotte Elliott, Stz’uminus education director. “I don’t think I can even express the excitement that the community is feeling.”

For the past 20 years, secondary and adult education have been run out of Chemainus Native College and Stu’’ate Lelum Secondary on Jones Road in Ladysmith. Students attend from Nanaimo, the Cowichan Valley and Penelakut Island.

“When I came on board 11 years ago, it was pretty evident that we needed to create something based on the increasing high school youth enrolment at Stu’’ate Lelum,” Elliott said.

The Chemainus Native College will continue to operate at the Jones Road location once the high school is officially opened in September. The college facility will undergo a facelift in the summer, according to Elliott.

The new secondary school facility is a state-of-the-art building, complete with green roof, energy-efficient lighting and modern equipment, such as Smart Boards in every classroom. It will serve students through Grades 8-12, aged 19 and younger.

“This beautiful new school has all of the facilities we could have ever hoped for,” said Josee Duffhues, Open House committee co-ordinator. “It’s going to be an absolute dream to see our students in that environment.”

Other features include a half-size gymnasium, fitness room, science lab, computer lab, career centre, multipurpose room, library, industrial shop and a professional kitchen, which will enhance the culinary education that has been offered out of Stu’’ate Lelum.

Perhaps the school’s most charming feature is its large glass windows, offering beautiful views of the forest outside.

The project has been funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, as well as a significant monetary contribution by the Stz’uminus First Nation, who strongly believe in education, Elliott said.

“We’re not duplicating the public system, we’re not duplicating a private system; we’re creating our own system where we know and believe our children can succeed,” she said. “Stz’uminus is always talking about building bridges, and this is going to be a school that’s open for everyone, not just First Nations students.

“This is going to be a school where it’s a choice – they’re choosing to come here to learn.”

The Stz’uminus Secondary School Open House will take place Thurs., May 31 from 5-8 p.m.

For more information, contact 250-245-7155.