École Elsie MacGill Public School Celebrates its Official Opening

On the evening of Monday, June 13th, École Elsie MacGill Public School held its official opening with a celebratory event featuring guest speakers, musical presentations, and tours of the state-of-the-art school. École Elsie MacGill Public School has been open and operational since September 2020, and now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted, the school was pleased to offer special festivities for its students, families, and staff.

The event was led by Heather Harris, the school’s principal who was involved in the development of the school since its early stages. “The input that students and staff had in the design of our learning spaces is evident throughout, and we are so proud of the vibrant school community that we have become. Every student and staff member at École Elsie MacGill Public School has a favourite feature or space in the school that allows them to see themselves in the environment and know that they belong,” said Harris.

The event welcomed Lakehead District School Board dignitaries to the stage, including Chair Ellen Chambers and Director of Education Ian MacRae, and received official congratulatory letters by Mayor Bill Mauro and the Ministry of Education. The spotlight was proudly given to students of the school who produced musical numbers and voiced their love of the school.

“Producing a brand-new school is a long process and it starts long before the first shovel of dirt is dug,” said Ellen Chambers. “It begins with identifying the needs of the community and determining how best to serve the students. In the case of this beautiful new school, trustees approved the proposal to close two schools and combine them into one.”

The new school was created upon the closing of Agnew H. Johnston Public School and Edgewater Park Public School and was built at the site of the former Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate and Vocational Institute.

With an enrolment of nearly 800 students, École Elsie MacGill Public School features an immense gymnasium, spacious hallways, and plenty of natural light. The building was designed with many energy efficient technologies and environmental preservations. To encourage the reduction of the carbon footprint, the planning of the new school included marking walking and cycling routes throughout the neighbourhood to promote walking and cycling to school. To promote on-site natural life, the landscaping was designed to include multiple species of trees native to Northwestern Ontario and many of the existing mature trees were left to thrive. In addition, three stormwater retention ponds were built with added shrubs and wildflowers to keep as much stormwater on site. The school was also constructed with low temperature in-slab heating and spray foam insulation to reduce winter heating costs and maintain comfortable interior temperatures during the summer.

The name École Elsie MacGill Public School pays tribute to prominent Canadian feminist and engineer Elsie MacGill (1905-1980). Elsie MacGill was the chief aeronautical engineer at Canadian Car & Foundry (Can-Car) in Fort William (now Thunder Bay), where she designed, constructed, and tested the Maple Leaf II Trainer which is recognized as the first aircraft designed and produced by a woman. During the Second World War, she oversaw production of more than 1,400 Hawker Hurricane fighter planes, earning her the moniker of Queen of the Hurricanes.

The official opening of École Elsie MacGill Public School honoured the school’s namesake with a display of Elsie MacGill’s contributions to Canada from the Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre. The historical items included a 30-inch fragment of a Hawker Hurricane fighter plane from the Second World War, photos from the 1930s and 1940s of the construction of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes at Can-Car, and a copy of the biography of Elsie MacGill titled Her Daughter the Engineer – The Life of Elsie Gregory MacGill, by Richard I. Bourgeois-Doyle.

Ian MacRae said this school has been the dream and goal of many Lakehead Public Schools leaders, and it reflects the Board’s vision of offering students an exceptional learning experience in a school that is accessible and safe. “École Elsie MacGill Public School is the product of years of dedicated discussion and planning, and was tailored to inspire the sense of community, culture, and care for the environment. I extend my sincere gratitude to all who contributed to the creation of our new school, including the Ministry of Education which has provided over $30 million in financial support,” said MacRae.

École Elsie MacGill Public School values its community partnerships and is pleased to house two on-site child care centres – Schoolhouse Playcare Centre and Little Lions Waldorf Child and Family Centre – to convenience families and enhance the sense of community.

The school looks forward to continuing to embody the three C’s in the school motto: Community, Compassion, and Connection, and foster a dedicated community of students, families, and staff.

Thank you to EcoSuperior for donating 400 white spruce saplings for the school community to take home!