The air smells like drywall dust. Steel beams are exposed and cinder block walls are being grouted. The concrete floor is covered in construction equipment, not hardwood. But in less than a year, students will gather in this gymnasium for an assembly as the 2017-18 school year begins.

The public Ecole Harbour Landing School is incomplete. So is St. Kateri Tekakwitha School, its Catholic counterpart. But the joint-use schools, being built in Regina’s southwest Harbour Landing neighbourhood, are “slightly ahead” of schedule, said Education Minister Don Morgan.

Ground broke little more than a year ago at Regina’s three joint-use school sites, where Joint Use Mutual Partnership (JUMP) is building schools in a public-private partnership.

“It’s amazing, really, when I think about — about a year ago was when they first started to dig a hole for this place, and now look at it,” said Frank Flegel, board chair of the Regina Catholic School Division.

“It’s a 21st-century building for 21st-century education.”

“I think this school is keeping up with the changes in education that we’re already experiencing,” said Katherine Gagne, board chair for the Regina Public School Division.

That was the consensus on a tour for education officials and media at the Harbour Landing schools Monday.

Wide hallways and large garage- and barn-style classroom doors facilitate flexible learning spaces. The main stairway in each school is designed as amphitheatre seating, for assemblies and impromptu gatherings. Each school is accessible, with one elevator. Gender-neutral washrooms are already taking shape. In front of each school, large stones form a storytelling circle, where teachers can host outdoor lessons. Between the two schools, black posts mark the yard of a shared childcare space. The playground will also be shared.

About 450 students are expected to attend each school under this shared roof, although enrollment has yet to begin. Both schools will offer English and French immersion.

The joint-use school is a rainbow, aside from the Public’s choice red and the Catholic’s choice blue as accent colours. There’s exposed silver duct work, white drywall, paints in greens and blues, golden plywood and grey cinder blocks. The concrete floor has yet to be covered but they’re working on it.

About 100 tradespeople are on site at each of the province’s nine joint-use school sites (six in the Saskatoon area). Right now the goal is to finish paving and landscaping, and get the buildings weather-tight for winter. During those cold months, the schools’ interior spaces will be the focus.

“Building this many schools on a tight time frame is always going to be challenging, but nothing that is insurmountable,” said JUMP design and construction lead Ian Podmore.

The province has a 25-year contract with JUMP, which will do large-scale maintenance on the schools. The government estimates savings of $100-million to taxpayers during that time.

Though the new school designs mean public and separate school divisions working so closely, Morgan said there are no plans for amalgamating the two divisions.

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