Back to school in a brand-new home: St. Martin School

St. Martin Catholic Elementary set to celebrate new school.

It’s been a long time coming, but Tuesday is the day the St. Martin Catholic Elementary School community has been waiting for.

While students, staff and families will begin the day at the original Margaret Street site Tuesday morning, they will celebrate a new chapter in the school’s history less than an hour later after they hold a pilgrimage to the site of the new school at 18 Streamside Dr. in Smithville. Festivities, including a ribbon cutting, will take place at about 9:45 a.m., marking the end of a journey that has been years in the making.

“It’s naturally fitting the school motto is ‘The Little School that Grew’,” principal Christopher Zanuttini said during a hive of activity Friday, as workers put some of the finishing touches on the school. “There’s a great deal of excitement and anticipation from the students, the staff and the families as we mark a new milestone in the school’s history.”

The school just marked its 50th anniversary last year and had seen much growth during that half-century to accommodate the growing number of students. Plans to build a new school, however, have long been in the works, with the new construction starting in December of 2015. Now, nearly two years later, they will be moving into a much larger space that will accommodate more students — up to 465 — with nearly 20 classrooms, a child care centre, a new gymnasium with a stage, a library/resource room, a chapel and about 41,000 sq. ft in additional space compared to the Margaret Street site.

“It’s really about providing a healthy and positive learning environment for the students,” said Zanuttini, noting the elimination of portables and the work to allow much more natural light into the facility will have a “considerable impact” on the students.

The chapel, he said, will provide an opportunity to hold mass and other liturgical celebrations given the distance to the church parish, while the gymnasium not only features a stage, but also a scoreboard and sound equipment to enhance the events held in there. Zanuttini gives much credit to the Catholic school council, who has been raising funds to assist with those projects over the years, in addition to a marquee sign at the front of the school.

“They did an incredible job at raising funds over the years,” he said, lauding the efforts of co-chairs Stacey Karaban, Andrew Weltz and the school council members. “We’ve also had some great community partners.”

Those include Catalina Fuels, Lincoln Hearing Clinic and Merla Electric, whose logos appear on the scoreboard, along with Rankin Construction.

Other highlights of the school include a specific wing for the child care centre and kindergarten classes, an outdoor area that promotes active play, with a variety of games painted onto the pavement and a large green space that the students can access once the grass grows in, new lockers, and much more.

Zanuttini said while those who have been in the space have had smiles on their faces as they explored the building, he is looking forward to the entire St. Martin family coming together Tuesday in the space.

“For me it’s been exciting and reward(ing) to watch how this space has transformed on a daily basis,” he said. “What’s more exciting will be watching this turn into home for the 410 students and 40 staff on Tuesday. This space is incredible, but it’s not the same without the family we have.”

Information on the new school opening and celebrations can be found on the school’s website, Much like the groundbreaking, the celebration of the new space will include an ode to the future. While the 2015 groundbreaking included the blending of dirt from the old site at the new one, on Tuesday a representative from each class will carry a crucifix from the original site that will be placed in the new class.

By Scott Rosts group managing editor for Niagara this Week.