Administrators anxiously waiting for glittering new school in Rosthern

December 11, 2019

ROSTHERN–Albeit currently adorned with numerous tarps and other such construction-related material and encircled by chain-link fencing, even a neophyte such as myself can readily envision the scope and aesthetic appeal of what is in store for the citizens of this community. The brand new Rosthern Community School is slated to open its doors in the fall of 2020.

That first-time observation is enthusiastically confirmed by Mitch Luiten, principal at Rosthern High School (Grades 6-12) and Andrea Foster, principal at Rosthern Elementary School just down the road.

The fact the two schools will be under one roof, as Luiten explained, is merely the tip of the iceberg as the two colleagues are unabashedly like two children who got the keys to the treasure chest.

Words like stunning, unbelievable, exciting and cool are sprinkled throughout the conversation as each of them allow themselves a moment to vividly imagine what their new reality will become this time next year with the opening of this $25 million facility.

Andrea Foster and Mitch Luiten, who have been integrally involved in the
transition planning for the much-anticipated new Rosthern Community
School, are beaming at the prospect of what is in store when the new
facility opens next year.

Foster, as if transporting herself to what the wide-open front entrance with floor-to-ceiling windows will look like, can barely contain her smile.

Luiten concurs, noting that probably the feature he is most looking forward to is the presentation staircase where the whole school (which will accommodate 430 students as well as being joined to a 30-space daycare facility) can gather for events.

“It’s one of the things that’s really cool; the whole school has been so well-designed and it’s not cold at all,” Luiten enthused.

What makes this new locale just that much more appealing is the state of the existing facilities, which although built in the 1960s, have been subject to all sorts of serious structural issues and that has only become worse.

There was the fateful day in 2016 when then-Education Minister Don Morgan and current Premier Scott Moe were touring the facilities. Fortuitously it was raining outside–and inside for that matter, as there were pots throughout catching the dripping water.

Suffice to say, that was just one of the many headaches at the two schools and not the least of which featured beams in the hallway to hold up a sagging roof as well as a recently malfunctioning furnace.

Foster, who had spent 17 years at the high school prior to moving to the elementary school, has experienced her share of these “scary” issues. She added that she has remained hopeful they will be able to get one more year out of these existing facilities–the high school is slated for demolition, while the fate of the elementary school building is yet to be fully determined.

Both Luiten and Foster have been integrally involved in the process since it was first announced in 2017 by now-retired high school principal Ralph Epp that a new facility was coming.

The mountains of architectural drawings by Saskatoon-based Group 2 Architecture and Graham Construction on the table in Luiten’s office are witness to this involvement–as are the attached sticky notes (they are teachers after all; let’s not forget).

“It continues to be a positive distraction,” Foster smiled. “Any issues that might have come up along the way have just seemed to melt away. Everyone has been so positive and helpful in terms of working together to make this the best it can be.”

While the two principals knew each other only slightly from earlier meetings as members of Prairie Spirit School Division–Luiten was principal at Borden School before coming to Rosthern two years ago–they are pretty much joined at the hip now throughout this process.

Luiten alluded to the importance of having the teamwork approach in dealing with both everyday educational issues, as well as being involved in the construction phases of the new school. It is not uncommon for the two to swap schools on occasion if the need arises.

One of Foster’s chief goals throughout has been to establish a strong new culture for when the two schools become one. She will assume the role of vice-principal at the new school.

“We have been very intentional about this in the planning right from the start. In terms of professional development for our teaching staff, we do it together and we plan together and make sure to have as much dialogue as possible. We realize each of our schools is bringing their own piece to this and it’s very exciting to be part of. We’re looking at who we want to be, and this is a very unique opportunity for all of us in creating this new identity and culture,” Foster added.

That whole approach has also included the input of students from the outset in terms of what they would like to see in their new home-to-be.

As one could readily imagine, a new facility of this magnitude has caught the attention of the community in a major way.

“It’s one of those things that people might be thinking ‘we’ll believe it when we see it,’ but the community has been very excited and supportive. This community has been given a gift and there’s a real sense of anticipation. I think this facility will incorporate a lot of the diversity in our community and it will be a fantastic addition,” Luiten suggested.

When asked, Foster smiled and said she hadn’t yet got to counting down the days, but both acknowledged that is bound to start very soon. For now, Foster is busying herself picking out the furniture, underscoring the importance of finding items that will be good for the long-term rather than opting for the latest trends or fads. “Just to see how it all fits together, and using your imagination, it’s going to be great,” Foster said in anticipation.