(PHOTO: Zida’s Sheng Lan with his mother Hua (Jennifer) Lan and father Julian Ni. Photo by Devyn Barrie.
After about a year of renovation and plenty of mystery, a new private school called Zida Academy is slated to open up at the location of the old Ottawa Waldorf School on Goulbourn Street. The owners, Zida Business Associates, took over the property last summer after the Waldorf School went bankrupt. Zida is a family business which runs a similar school in Centrepointe that includes music, preschool, dance, and academics. More than 10,000 students have registered there since it opened in 1996.
Sheng Lan co-owns the school along with his mother Hua (Jennifer) Lan and father Julian Ni. Sheng Lan told StittsvilleCentral.ca they had to do a complete overhaul of the old building, including new roofing, interiors, security fencing and internet wiring.
“It wasn’t in the best shape,” he said. “…My family, we’re self-funding it ourselves… because it’s a large project we’re just doing it in stages.”
Although it was a fixer-upper, Lan says the school is in a great location and he expects it to be more successful than the previous owner’s Waldorf school.
“It’s right in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, and because the school has been here for so many years, the parents and the students know about the location.”
He says because Stittsville is a fast-growing community, they will be able to draw students from both the local community and across the city. Even some foreign students have expressed interest in attending.
The new school has already begun evening music classes for existing students of their Centrepointe school. They’ve applied to the Ontario Ministry of Education for an early childhood education license so they can begin daycare classes. After that, the school will add more capacity for higher grade levels. Lan says the school will have a full plate of offerings, ranging from athletics to academics
“We want the school to be one place where kids can learn anything that they feel like… we feel that it’s important for kids to be exposed to different types of interests, different types of programs.”
“We’re not going to, you know, start a hundred programs at once …[but] Eventually there are hopes that when the kids want to learn something, they can come here and something’s available for them.”
Once everything gets underway, Lan says they look forward to being a part of the Stittsville community, such as holding public events and contributing charitably.
“I was involved in a group called Pathways to Education in Toronto. So they are an organization where they are involved in dealing with underprivileged children in local communities… we would like to do something similar.” he said.
Earlier in June they held a public concert to show off the school, and have plans to hold a music competition later in December.
Until then, there remains plenty of work before the school is ready to officially open. Teachers are still being hired and renovations continue. Lan says they will hold off on opening student registration until the Ministry of Education approves their license. There is no timeline for that, but it’s expected to come sometime this year.