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New $24M Gregory A. Hogan school set to welcome students this month

When students at Sarnia’s Gregory A. Hogan elementary school return from March Break this month, they’ll be heading to its new $24-million location on the Rapids Parkway.

Officials say the building will be turned over to the St. Clair Catholic District School Board (SCCDSB) next week, when staff will set up furniture, equipment and technology, before doors officially open to students on Monday, March 18.

“That allows us to be in the building without hard hats and safety boots, and then after that…we can actually prepare the school and have it ready for the opening date for students and staff,” said Tony Montanino, manager, facility services, SCCDSB, in a video update. “Every day, there’s substantial change on the site; it’s an exciting time because you can actually see the finishes coming in, and we’re working our way from the back corner to the very front entrance, and then we’ll be out the door.”

When ground broke on the new school in May 2022, it was expected to be ready for occupancy in September and cost approximately $22 million. But labour shortages and material costs pushed the price tag to $24 million and board officials announced last year that it would take until January 2024 to open.

Last fall, a new timeline was set for the March 18 opening date.

The local Catholic board’s biggest and newest elementary school is set to accommodate up to 659 students, and is worth the wait, officials added.

“I’m just absolutely overwhelmed, impressed, blown away,” said Derek Morrison, appointed the school’s first principal. “I’ve said it to the kids, I’ve said it to the parents — regardless of what they’re imagining this to be in their minds, it will exceed their wildest expectations of the place.”

The new school will be French Immersion (JK – Grade 8) and contain six daycare classrooms with 88 spaces to be operated by Lambton County.

“The licensing process for the childcare will begin at the end of March 2024 with an opening date to be announced by London Bridge Child Care at a later date,” officials previously noted.

The new school building boasts several features, most notably, a 900-square-foot community room that will be used for student and staff gatherings, special learning opportunities and as a chapel, made possible by a $200,000 donation from the Hogan families. 

The design also includes a double gym, another feature many elementary schools don’t have.

“I just can’t believe when I walked in today,” said superintendent of education Michelle Sawa, who recently took a tour of the building. “It’s just a gift for the students. It’s just remarkable the details that have been thought about.”

The current Gregory A. Hogan on Hogan Drive will undergo interior renovations beginning this spring. The refurbished and upgraded school will reopen as the new Sacred Heart Catholic School in September 2025.

The board recently posted a video update featuring student reporters with St. Clair Action News. To view the full video, click here.

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