Minister of education visits district to break ground on new Rainy River school

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Construction on Rainy River’s new $30 million JK-12 school is officially underway after a groundbreaking ceremony last week.

“We’re here, really, with a message of hope,” said minister of education Stephen Lecce, who made the trip to Rainy River. “It’s so promising to see new builds take hold across Ontario.”

He said it’s especially important here in the northwest where there has not been as much capital investment.

Minister Lecce said this is part of a broader effort by Kenora–Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford to keep talented young people in the communities where they’ve been raised.

In years past, there were talks of expanding the existing school, but on reflection, the board said there was a need for an entirely new school altogether. In 2019, the ministry received a proposal for the new build.

“And we were persuaded then — largely because of the relentless advocacy of Greg Rickford who was determined to see a new school built in this community,” said Lecce. “Greg is not subtle about his asks, if demands, of government to make sure that funding flows to the northwest.”

He went on to say that it’s because of Rickford’s advocacy and the many parents who spoke and wrote to the ministry that they’re kicking off construction.

“It’s an amazing story of what’s possible through our collaboration,” said Lecce. “Every single one of you are playing an important role in helping to literally build the physical infrastructure that’s going to help educate and inspire the next generation of our province.”

Saying that Rickford is objectively the hardest-working MPP in the province, Lecce said he’s proud to work with and learn from him.

“I’m just proud to be working with [Rickford] to deliver for families, for young people with some kids here and to see them smile to see their sense of optimism. That’s our why,” he said. “We want to give these kids a reason to go to school, graduate, stay in the community, get a good job, own a home, and aspire to dream as a Canadian.”

MPP Rickford then spoke about potential, and what the school and other projects might bring.

“I see — as we complete one project after another — a dynamic Rainy River for the future,” he said. “We’ve had an extraordinary opportunity in all key sectors to make sure that despite our hardships and challenges, we make sure that we always focus on the opportunity. And this is a shining example of that.”

Once completed, the project will deliver 311 student spaces, 39 child care spaces, two new child care rooms, and an EarlyON Child and Family Centre.

“But it’s more than that,” said Rickford. “It’s bricks and mortar, it’s people, but it’s also the promise of a dynamic community that offers the Rainy River District an affordable place for families to come and celebrate life in northwestern Ontario.”

Director of education for the Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB) Heather Campbell was also on hand, as she opened the ceremony from the podium, praising Lecce for his role as minister of education.

“He’s a great champion for an equitable and inclusive education system — one that gives all youth a chance for success,” she said.

Campbell said the parcel of land on which the school is being built will not disrupt students during construction, as it is east of Government Road, across from the other two existing schools in Rainy River.

Joining the director of education for the announcement were members of the RRDSB’s board of trustees.

“I really want to acknowledge all of their presence here today and how very important and supportive they’ve been throughout this process,” said Campbell.

Chair Jeff Lehman also briefly weighed in at the podium.

“A community without a school is not a community,” he said. “A community with a brand new school is a community for the next 50 to 100 years, so let’s look forward to those years.”

The school is to be completed no later than January 2025. Minister Lecce said he was assured the school is on track to be completed in late fall 2024.