State-of-the-art special needs school opens its doors in Calgary

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State-of-the-art special needs school opens its doors in Calgary
WATCH ABOVE: For years it was under a cloud of controversy. Staff and parents at an aging special needs school in Bridgeland lobbied to build a new one in a green space in Varsity Acres. A lawsuit was filed by concerned community members trying to stop it. But as Jill Croteau reports -- they persevered, the suit was dropped and this week it opened its doors – Jan 4, 2017

After three long years of lobbying and construction, a unique school welcomed its students for the first time this week in Calgary’s northwest.

Students at Christine Meikle used to learn in an aging, cramped facility in Bridgeland.

The Calgary Board of Education, with the help of provincial government funding, built a brand new school in Varsity Acres.

The school accommodates 80 students with physical, emotional, medical and cognitive issues. They are happily settling in to their new state-of-the-art learning environment.

Christine Meikle school principal Sandy Mann is thrilled.

“We were worried about the transition but they walked in with the great smiles. It’s been quite lovely to watch.”

The school supports children of varying abilities and has created an inclusive space for all of them.

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Many classrooms are equipped with special tracking to easily maneuver the kids around and give them opportunities to be independent. Among the features is a specially designed indoor pool.

“It’s a beautiful, warm, saltwater therapeutic pool that has a ramp for kids to go in and hold onto bars,” Mann said.

The outdoor space is entirely wheelchair accessible. Parents have already witnessed benefits of this one-of-a-kind facility and look forward to seeing them grow with every passing day.

Diana Hussein’s son, Yassine, has some learning challenges and she feels privileged to have her son attending the new facility.

“He loved it and he clapped,” Hussein said about her son’s reaction. “He’s also visually impaired so in the old school it was tight and dark but here he can walk in common area spaces and feel a little bit more confident.”

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Those involved say it’s rewarding to know the city’s more vulnerable children have earned this new school.

“They built a place for these kids to thrive and feel confident and accepted and feel they are worthwhile,” principal Mann said. “This is a message for the kids and their parents and the community. It’s quite touching and really moving.”

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