Finishing touches are all that’s left for one of School District 23’s newest middle schools.
Canyon Falls Middle School (CFMS) in the Upper Mission area of Kelowna is nearly ready to welcome its first batch of 476 students for the first day of school on Tuesday.
The three-floor, 8,240-square-metre building, features 16 flexible learning spaces called learning studios that open into six collaborative maker spaces that support 21st-century learning. The school also boasts several outdoor learning spaces and multifunctional spaces such as the school’s atrium, which can also be used as a stage for presentations.
A view of the school’s atrium, directly through the front doors. (Michael Rodriguez – Kelowna Capital News)
Rhonda Ovelson, assistant superintendent for SD23, said the design of the building allows them to teach in a very effective way.
“We’ve designed the space around what we know about teaching and learning,” she said. “We’re working collaboratively in learning communities with teams of teachers in an interdisciplinary way.”
The learning communities she mentioned are flexible spaces which allow for large group learning as well as opportunities for smaller groups and break-out groups.
“The space allows for that,” Ovelson said. “The doors open and close (between classrooms). It’s designed intentionally so kids can be in different sized groups throughout the day.”
The doors between classrooms she referenced are more collapsable walls than they are doors, allowing several different variations within one space at the school.
These panels allow one space to be turned into six, or vice versa. (Michael Rodriguez – Kelowna Capital News)
Several of the school’s learning places look out over the Okanagan Valley. (Michael Rodriguez – Kelowna Capital News)
CFMS’s principal, Jim Laird has had a long tenure in SD23, beginning here as a student teacher in 2002, but most recently he was the Principal of Rutland Middle School.
He said the open concept style of learning the school will focus on really lends towards collaborative learning.
“Rather than when you and I went to school—having the four walls and the rows—the furniture is on wheels, they’re able to rearrange based on what they’re doing.”
Laird was named principal in mid-December and has been on-site dealing with the construction of his new school since early August.
“It’s been a bit of a change,” he said, “just getting used to coming as a principal in a very different situation—working with contractors and district staff in a really complex building project.”
Students and parents have already been through the school on tours and the district said the response has been very good and families are “very excited.”
For its first year, the school is welcoming just Grade 6 and 7 students but Grade 8 students will be enrolling for the 2020-21 school year.
Okanagan Mission Secondary will move to a grades 9-12 model in 2020-21 and elementary schools in the area will include only kindergarten through Grade 5.
The district said all of these changes this will increase space for learning.
The school’s estimated cost upon announcement was $38.1 million, but superintendent Kevin Kardaal said the final numbers haven’t come in yet.